Entertainment

Rosario Dawson Is Calling For Common Sense Reforms To How Incarcerated Women Are Treated And She Wants You To Join Her

Rosario Dawson has long used her affluence and celebrity to champion social justice issues, from immigration and climate change to sexual violence and economic justice. Now the Cuban-Puerto Rican actress is calling for common sense reforms to how women are treated in the federal prison system.

“Everyone, including incarcerated women, can live with dignity so please stand with us to reform the criminal justice system,” Dawson, 38, said in a post on Instagram announcing her involvement in #cut50’s Dignity campaign.

#cut50, a national initiative to reduce the prison population, teamed up with Alicia Keys’ “We Are Here Movement” and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls to start Dignity. The crusade, influenced by Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren’s Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, advocates for legislation that improves the treatment of women behind bars and better prepares them for rehabilitation.

“Did you know that 80% of incarcerated women in America are mothers? That 90% of women behind bars are survivors of sexual violence? Or that 2,000 women give birth behind bars every year? Help us start the conversation and create some change,” Dawson added.

The movement, led by formerly incarcerated women across the country, is particularly interested in ending the re-traumatization of women behind bars, from stopping the use of shackles during childbirth to housing mothers in facilities close to their children.

Dawson, along with celebrities like Ellen Pompeo and David Arquette, are asking fans to purchase “Dignity” t-shirts, with funds from sales going to help educate the public about the treatment of incarcerated women, share their stories and build a movement to bring transformation to the system.

Read: For Rosario Dawson, The #MeToo Movement’s Fight Against Sexual Harassment Is Personal

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Fingers Crossed Rosario Dawson’s Relationship With Cory Booker Will Give Us Our First U.S. Primera Dama

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Fingers Crossed Rosario Dawson’s Relationship With Cory Booker Will Give Us Our First U.S. Primera Dama

Last Thursday, veteran actress Rosario Dawson confirmed that she and Democratic Presidential nominee Cory Booker are dating. This finally confirmed the rumors about the two of them that had been circulating for weeks.

Speculation of a relationship between Dawson and Booker started when they were spotted spending time together in both New York City and Washington, D.C.

When Corey Booker appeared on the radio show the Breakfast Club last month, he vaguely confirmed a relationship by saying that he was dating someone “really special” and playfully referred to her as his “boo”. He went on to say that this special someone would make a “great First Lady”.

Meanwhile, Dawson fully confirmed the relationship when she was stopped by TMZ reporters at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

In response to a question posed as to whether her and Booker are dating, Dawson responded: “very much so”.

The TMZ reporter first asked Dawson if she thinks Booker would make a good president, to which she responded: “I think so, yeah. He’s an amazing human being”. Dawson told TMZ when asked if Booker would make a great president.

When further questioned about the status of their relationship and the possibility of wedding bells in the future, Dawson laughed and responded, “I have no idea”.

“I am just grateful to be with someone that I respect and love and admire so much,” she said.

Dawson went on to describe Booker as “brilliant and kind and caring and loving” before wrapping up the impromptu interview.

Dawson herself is no stranger to political activism. The “Jane the Virgin” actress co-founded the organization Voto Latino which aims to “encourage young Hispanic and Latino voters to register to vote”.

As for Latina Twitter, its feelings about the #Cosario relationship runs the gamut.

It’s easy to understand that people have mixed feelings towards the unusual pairing of politics and Hollywood.

This Latina was all positivity:

Well good for them I’m glad for @CoryBooker he’s able to have an enjoy a private life wish them both the best ????❤— Maria Alvarez (@MariaAl25005903) March 14, 2019

From Dawson’s praise of Booker, by all accounts, it seems that they’re very happy together.

Some Twitter users were still salty about Dawson’s controversial political opinions during the 2016 election.

Is she going to campaign for Bernie Sanders and vote against him like she did for Hillary? Be careful Cory!— Mari (@MariPRCAL) March 14, 2019

Dawson was a vocal Bernie Sanders supporter in the 2016 election and, ultimately, vocally decided against voting for Hillary Clinton once she became the Democratic nominee.

Other people weren’t so happy that a politician is dating a celebrity.

Cory Booker is dating Mimi? I mean, Rosario Dawson?! These politicians are getting crazy as hell dating all these celebs. ????— KBK (@ikickkkthetruth) March 14, 2019

Many people like to keep politics and entertainment separate–for good reason.

And of course, we might be getting ahead of ourselves, but many were pumped about the idea of Rosario becoming a First Lady.


First Lady Rosario Dawson of Puerto Rico and Cuba??? Now that’s the 2020 im living for.

Whatever the future holds with the new couple, we definitely wish them the best. And as always, if you want to make sure your voice is heard in the upcoming 2020, make sure to take the time to register to vote!


Read: An All-Latina Mariachi Deserves An Oscar For This Rendition Of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

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HBO’s Latest Documentary “The Sentence” Sheds Light On How Unjust Mandatory-Minimum Sentences Can Break A Family

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HBO’s Latest Documentary “The Sentence” Sheds Light On How Unjust Mandatory-Minimum Sentences Can Break A Family

On February 29, 2008, Cindy Shank’s life changed forever. That’s the day the Lansing, Michigan-based Mexican-American was sentenced to 15 years in prison on drug conspiracy charges, forcing her to be a mother, wife, daughter and sister from hundreds of miles away for nonviolent crimes she did not commit. Her story is the subject of “The Sentence,” an award-winning documentary filmed by Shank’s brother, Rudy Valdez, exploring the injustice of mandatory-minimum sentencing. 

“I don’t think anyone else could have made this film about my family. I don’t think it would have had the same effect,” Valdez, who started shooting videos of his three nieces — Autumn, Annalis and Ava — so that his older sister could watch some of the many moments she missed while away in prison when she returned home, told FIERCE. The home recordings inspired a documentary eight months into Shank’s sentence, when she cried over the phone imagining her oldest daughter dance at an upcoming recital. “I had an opportunity to tell a story you don’t get to hear about: the family, the children left behind and the residual effects of long sentences,” he continued.

That story begins in 2002, when Shank’s then-boyfriend, Alex Humphry, who started selling drugs after they began dating, was murdered.

When police officers arrived at the scene, they found 20 kilograms of cocaine, a kilogram of crack cocaine, 40 pounds of marijuana, $40,000 and guns. While mourning the death of her partner, Shank was indicted for multiple drug crimes. Maintaining her innocence — she alleges she was never a part of her late ex’s drug offenses — she declined a plea deal and, with no evidence against her, was released from jail with her case dismissed.

In the years that followed, Shank moved on with her life: she fell in love again, got married, bought a home and had three daughters. But during an early morning in March 2007, police once again knocked on her door, this time arresting Shank on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

“Conspiracy is knowledge. Any knowledge you have of a crime, you could be charged for that crime,” Shank says in the nearly one hour and thirty minute-long film. “Basically, I lived in the home, so any crimes he committed while we lived together I was charged with.”

Shank, nor her parents, husband or brother, has ever denied guilt for not informing police officers of her boyfriend’s misdeeds. Throughout the documentary, her, and her worried family, take issue with the unfairness of her 15-year prison term. For the family, as well as the litigators and experts interviewed for the film, mandatory-minimum sentencing laws — controversial regulations that encourage strict sentencing rules over judicial discretion — account for one of the greatest failures of the U.S. government. The law, once considered unconstitutional, puts power into the hands of prosecutors, rather than judges, and has been abused in the drug war to punish tens of thousands of low-level, nonviolent state and federal defendants with harsh terms.

In the film, Valdez is one of the biggest opponents of mandatory-minimum sentencing, speaking with media about the wrongfulness of these laws and unceasingly fighting, through failed appeals and a clemency petition, to have her sister released early. His battle comes to a triumphant end in November 2016, eight years into Shank’s term, when then-President Barack Obama commuted his sister’s sentence. Shank was released on December 21, 2016, just in time to surprise her daughters for the holidays.

“The best is the little things: holding my daughters at night, having conversations with them, knowing them from the inside out. I know Ava doesn’t like cheese. I know how much I have to tickle Annalis to get the dimple on her cheek,” Shank, now 45, told FIERCE.

But she’s the first to acknowledge that her long-awaited release hasn’t just brought sunny days.

Shank, whose husband filed for divorce three years into her sentence, is trying to build relationships with daughters, who know her more from five-minute phone conversations and annual prison visits than caring for them at home.

“The hardest is the late-night conversations. Annalis comes to me and asks why were you gone. We are still having these talks and will throughout our lives. Who knows what’s to come? We won’t know the ramifications of all of this until the future. We’ll see it in what lies ahead and the decisions they make,” she added.

Accompanying her pain for lost time is that of the continued years, months, weeks and days of the people who, like she once was, remain behind bars because of unjust mandatory-minimum sentences. Shank was one of more than 35,000 inmates who requested consideration for a commuted or reduced sentence through the non-government affiliated organization the Clemency Project 2014, and she is one of less than 2,000 to receive it.

“When Rudy told me it was just 1,600 people, it crushed me. My heart crushed because I know what that’s like. Every time a list would come out, I would look to see if I was on it — for three years. I know what it’s like to have that hope and to feel defeated every time it lets you down. Hope is hard to have, and yet it’s the hardest to live without,” she said.

For Valdez, this documentary isn’t for his sister, his nieces or his parents. Instead, it’s for the tens of thousands whose names were not listed, for those who continue to be forgotten in the U.S.’ criminal justice system.

“This film is about the larger issue. Her story is emblematic of everyone else, of the people still there and of the children still going through this,” Valdez said. “This is for those who are going to go through this fight in the future and those who have been left behind.”

Check out the trailer below:

Watch “The Sentence” on Monday, October 15 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

Read: Locked Up: How Latinas Became One Of The Fastest-Growing Prison Populations

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