'Bartlet' spotlights prison reform
By Lucy McCalmont for Politico.
Former “West Wing” President Jed Bartlet has returned with a message for Congress.
In a video posted Tuesday to Brave New Films’ YouTube channel, actor Martin Sheen reprises his role as the fictional president to draw attention to and call for prison reform.
“It’s time for elected officials to focus on solutions like flexible sentencing guidelines,” Sheen, featured throughout, says at the end of the video. “Our goal must be a justice system that avoids unnecessary incarceration and irresponsible spending.”
Sheen doesn’t address himself as Bartlet or make any references to the Aaron Sorkin-scripted drama in the video, titled “President Bartlet has a message for Congress.” However, like his character on the Washington-based show, which aired on NBC from 1999 to 2006, Sheen pushes for legislation, urging viewers to contact their lawmakers.
“Tell Congress to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act,” Sheen says.
The video was produced in partnership with the ACLU and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Mother Jones reported.
Sheen’s endorsement comes as the Senate gets ready to take up the most significant changes to federal sentencing and parole guidelines in years, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The Smarter Sentencing Act was introduced last year by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. The bill, which aims to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, is expected to be taken up as early as this month in combination with another measure that also passed the Judiciary Committee. It would introduce changes to early release, the paper said.
Durbin said he was honored to have the actor lend his voice — and that of his fictional character — to help pass the bill.
“Mr. Sheen is a committed advocate for fairness in our justice system,” Durbin said. “I have worked with him in the past and am honored to have him (and President Bartlet) working in support of the next step in reforming federal drug sentencing policies — passage of the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act.”