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The Wire creator David Simon has weighed in on the arrest of Felicia Pearson, an actress from the now-defunct HBO series who was taken into custody Thursday during a Drug Enforcement Agency raid in Baltimore.
Simon opens his commentary — sent to Slate through HBO — by asserting that Pearson is “entitled to the presumption of innocence” and has been wrongly accused in a drug case previously.
For Simon, the issue is less about Pearson’s alleged crime than about the “other America” that Pearson, an author once convicted of second-degree murder, is a part of. Simon writes, “This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable. And whatever good fortune came from her role in The Wire seems, in retrospect, limited to that project.”
He continues, “She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional, but the entertainment industry as a whole does not offer a great many roles for those who can portray people from the other America. There are, in fact, relatively few stories told about the other America.”
Citing a 2008 Time magazine essay penned by several of The Wire‘s writers, Simon reiterates his belief that “the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass” and that the government has waged ” a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens.”
He writes, “In places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled… the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners.”
Simon concludes that he is “ill-equipped to be her judge in this matter” since “the opportunities and experiences of her life do not correspond in any way with my own.”
Simon was a crime beat reporter for the Baltimore Sun for more than a decade. He co-authored the book The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, and wrote and produced The Corner, Generation Kill and Homicide: Life on the Streets. His most recent series, Treme, begins its second season on HBO on April 24.
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