The world has been captivated by the case of Brian Banks, the young man who was falsely accused of rape and inexplicably sent to prison. There was no physical evidence that Brian had committed the crime, and prosecutors offered Banks the standard game of “Lifetime Roulette,” where an innocent man is told that asking for a fair trial means that he is gambling with his life. Had Banks fought the case and put his fate in the hands of a (probably all-white) jury, he was threatened with up to 41 years. That makes a plea bargain look good to anyone, even a man who is entirely innocent.
Now that Banks’ accuser has been caught red-handed after confessing to her lie, I thought that perhaps we should welcome the brother home with a few things to make his life a little bit better. After all, he gave up five years of his life, a chance to go to college and a possible future in the NFL in order to obtain them. I’d say that this is the least that we can do.
Here are a few things I’d like for us to offer Brian to welcome him back to the world:
1) A sincere apology: Everyone who supports this racist, imbalanced and tyrannical justice system need to apologize to Brian Banks from the bottom of their hearts. The judge who thought he deserved to go to prison as a rapist should apologize, along with the prosecutor who offered him a raw deal. The horrible attorney who told him to take the deal needs to apologize and so does the victim. Everyone should admit to their role in the scheme to destroy this man’s life, and we might want to apologize in advance for all the other Brian Banks’ out there whose stories have not yet been told.
2) A really large sum of money: If you were a football star being recruited by USC, how much could I offer you to spend the next five years of your life behind bars? Would $10 million do the trick? If so, perhaps that would be a good sum of money to pay Brian for his trouble. He should also have rights to nearly every penny to be earned by his accuser, as well as the attorneys who conspired to destroy him.
3) A clean record and a chance to get his life back: Going to prison is horrible, but getting out can sometimes be just as bad. At the very least, formerly incarcerated Americans have a very difficult time getting jobs. I presume that Brian’s record has been cleared, but I also assume that someone can offer this man a job and a chance to go to school.
4) A shot at the NFL: Brian once had a dream of becoming a professional football player. I’m not sure if he’s good enough, and the truth is that the NFL is not all that it’s cracked up to be. But if that’s what he wants to do, perhaps some team can make room for him on its roster. At the very least, it would be good publicity, and he might actually be a decent player.
5) Some therapy to help him to forgive and overcome whatever horrible things happened to him in prison: The worst thing about going to prison is that there is very little effort to rehabilitate anyone. The men and women in prison are often traumatized in unspeakable ways, milked for every penny that their families can muster, and thrown out into the world with few resources to help them cope with society. Whatever Brian went through in prison likely calls for intense therapy to help him learn to forgive, rebuild and move on with his life. My prayers go out to Brian and his family, for the road is still going to be difficult.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.
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