By Rickey Hampton, Editor and Founder of The African-American Athlete,
The late, great, Richard Pryor made us laugh out loud with his brilliant comedy, in which he poked fun at his own demons, and challenged the often racist policies of American society.
One of Pryor’s greatest lines involves the problems black America have dealt with in the justice system: “You go down there looking for justice; that’s what you find: just us.”
Pryor’s line perfectly described the plight of ‘The Ungers’ of Maryland. Named for a white male prisoner who originally brought the issue to light but himself remains imprisoned, these are 250 men, with the exception of one woman, almost all black, convicted before 1981.
They have all been found to have been unjustly sentenced to life in prison in Maryland.
Amazingly, judges allowed juries to interpret the rules of law however they saw fit, often ignoring the presumption of innocence iconic in our judicial system. This was blatantly unconstitutional. They have served from 30 to 40-plus years in prison before finally seeing freedom.
Some of these men are guilty of these crimes, from rape to murder. Others claim they were not guilty. Nonetheless, they all found themselves in a system that fostered unfair sentencing practices.
A superb piece on CBS’s Sunday Morning, one of the finest television programs on air today, chronicles their story.