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Actor Michael Kenneth Williams is lending his voice to the call for prison reform.
The Boardwalk Empire star has signed on as the American Civil Liberties Union’s Ambassador for ending mass incarceration, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.
In the role, Williams will lend support to the ACLU’s fight to push for criminal justice reform and advocate that people struggling with addiction or mental illness receive medical treatment instead of prison time.
“We have spent 40 years stuffing our prisons, mostly with black and brown men,” he tells THR in a statement. “We haven’t seen any of the problems outside those prison cells improve, and some have gotten worse. We can do better, and I’m excited to work with the ACLU to push for that change.”
The ACLU’s Ambassador Project launched in October 2013 and pairs stars with key issues. As part of his role as an advocate for ending mass incarceration, Williams will make public appearances and speak out about the issue in the media.
“We’re at a tipping point on mass incarceration in this country, and Michael’s voice will help us move beyond the disastrous policies of the last 40 years,” said Vanita Gupta, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “He has the passion, deep moral conviction and contagious optimism needed to effect real change in a criminal justice system that simply isn’t working.”
In addition to HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Williams appeared in The Wire, 12 Years a Slave and Robocop. He also co-stars in the feature film The Messenger, which hits theaters in October, and appears in upcoming awards season hopefuls The Gambler and Inherent Vice.
Other ACLU Ambassadors include Demian Bichir (immigrants’ rights), Harry Belafonte (the over-incarceration of juveniles), W. Kamau Bell (racial justice) Lewis Black (voting rights) Melissa Etheridge (marijuana reform), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (marriage equality), Cyndi Lauper (LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues) and Marlee Matlin (disability rights).
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