Rapper and Law & Order: SVU star Ice-T thinks America’s criminal justice system is bullshit.
“It’s sad that many people believe you have to break the law to end up in jail… SMH,” he tweeted on Wednesday morning. (“SMH” is a popular online acronym for “shaking my head,” a expression of exasperated disapproval.) “Even on SVU which is fake… We usually spend half the show trying to put some suspect in jail who’s innocent.”
Ice-T’s recent, renewed interest in this subject is driven by a combination of personal experience, as well as the encouragement of other advocates in entertainment and hip-hop who view the broken criminal justice system as one of the more urgent political issues of the decade.
“Ice has always been vocal on this,” Michael Skolnik, political director to music mogul Russell Simmons, told The Daily Beast. “Ice has been an amazing pop-culture, American celebrity who has commented proudly and loudly, from his point of view, on these particular issues—whether it’s policing or the criminal justice system—for decades.”
Ice-T also tweeted a link to a Change.org petition started by Van Jones and the #cut50 project calling on Congress to take up criminal justice reform. (The petition has enjoyed support on social media from other famous actors including Jessica Chastain and Michael K. Williams.)
Simmons has been partnering with Jones and #cut50 in their efforts to push bipartisan criminal justice reform, a cause that has won them allies from across the ideological spectrum, ranging from raging liberals in Hollywood to the Koch brothers. Simmons and Skolnik asked dozens of their celebrity friends to draw attention to the petition and criminal justice (and prison) reform, and Ice-T was an obvious candidate.
“He and Russell go back a very long time,” Skolnik said.
Furthermore, Ice-T has previously visited American prisons to talk to inmates about turning their lives around, and has spoken candidly about his own criminal history.
“From an artistic perspective, those rappers and artists that got out of the life, have great experiences to share,” he told The Guardian in 2008. “I think people can be entertained with other people’s pain. It’s exciting and fun to listen to, but to live it is something totally different. Watching the mafia is an exciting thing, but to be in it and to live every day with the potential of somebody blowing your brains out is not as sexy as it sounds.”
In 2013, the rapper tried to launch a reality TV series titled, “Life After Prison,” which would have focused on helping ex-cons rehabilitate after their extended stints behind bars. (The series did not end up finding a home on network or cable television.) “I consider myself one of the lucky ones,” Ice-T said. “Being a black man, I’ve been arrested, and I’ve had my share of problems with the law. But I always knew I wanted to do something positive with my life.”
Here’s video of him talking about the show’s premise, and mass incarceration:
Via his manager, Ice-T declined The Daily Beast’s request for an interview.