(The Root) — David Simon, the creator and lead writer of the HBO drama series The Wire, may owe viewers a sixth season of the critically acclaimed show in order to fulfill an offer he extended to Attorney General Eric Holder a few years back.
As many may know, Holder, like President Obama, is a huge fan of The Wire. The series' five seasons captured a grassroots view of Baltimore's drug epidemic and the institutions influenced by it. During a 2011 panel discussion on drug abuse, Holder described how he hoped Simon and his writing partner Ed Burns would put pen to paper to drum up another chapter of the Baltimore tale: "I want to speak directly to Burns and Mr. Simon," the attorney general said. "Do another season of 'The Wire.'
"That's actually at a minimum. If you don't do a season, do a movie," Holder joked.
Simon — a crime reporter and author-turned-television producer and impassioned political commentator — realized that he had the ear of the nation's top law enforcer and wasted no time delineating what he wanted the attorney general to do in return: "86" the nation's war on drugs.
"The attorney general's kind remarks are noted and appreciated," Simon wrote in a published email before going in for the jugular and issuing his counteroffer: "We are prepared to go to work on season 6 of The Wire if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanizing drug prohibition."
The policies are "succeeding only in transforming our democracy into the jailingest nation on the planet," he concluded.
Well, if the attorney general's recent plans to reduce the prison terms that low-level drug offenders receive constitute a legitimate effort to address the war on drugs, then it looks as if the ball is back in Simon's court. In a speech to the American Bar Association in early August, Holder laid out the Justice Department's new drug-related reforms that arguably address some of Simon's concerns. According to a New York Times report, the new policies will leave more drug crimes to state courts to preside over instead of federal courts; increase the use of drug-treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration; and expand the "compassionate release" program for elderly, nonviolent drug offenders who have served a significant portion of their sentences.
Holder seemed to agree with Simon's comment about U.S. courts being obsessed with putting people in prison, telling the ABA's audience that "too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law-enforcement reason."
Only time will tell if the Justice Department's new drug policies satisfy Simon's requests or if he agrees with some of Holder's detractors who say they're not ambitious enough. Those critics want the DOJ to change its position on the use of recreational marijuana and would also like to see policies that address the fact that black people are arrested at higher rates than whites for the same drug-related offenses. Simon had not responded to The Root's request for an interview by the time this article was published.
Here's to hoping that Simon is thinking of Detective McNulty's next case for season 6. In the meantime, watch a Lectures to Beats webisode of an academic parsing some of the compelling issues The Wire addresses:
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is an editorial fellow at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features expert advice for TV and film's most complex characters. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.