BET’s ‘Charged’ doc reminds us presidency isn’t only thing at stake

As America prepares to elect its next president, BET’s new documentary Charged reminds voters that there’s much more at stake than who makes it into the White House.

As a part of the network’s “Truth Series,” the doc Charged: The DA vs. Black America explores the role district attorneys play in the criminal justice system, particularly in the harsh sentencing of African-American men.

The documentary’s director and producer, Shoshana Guy, says the project is meant to serve as a wake up call for minority voters, who may not be aware of the power and influence of district attorneys across the country.

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“DAs are elected officials, and the public has the power to hold them accountable,” Guy tells theGrio.com. “As a journalist, I have always been interested in criminal justice and have reported on the subject a lot over the years. Mass incarceration as it relates to the African-American community is a very complex subject that can end up feeling unwieldy, and so I was looking for a kind of singular lens through which I could try and put some context to how we got here.”

She adds: “As I began asking that question to my sources, the subject of prosecutors kept coming up. And the more I dug in, the more I realized how little we know about these very powerful actors in the system.”

Charged follows the real lives of families directly impacted by the criminal justice system and the ways in which the mass incarceration epidemic is ripping apart communities of color. Highlighting specific cases — usually involving petty drug possession — the project attempts to show the absurdity of state sentencing guidelines and the almost absolute discretion of DAs.

“I was surprised to learn just how much power DAs wield and how disengaged much of the public is from these decision makers,” Guy confessed.

“And even after more than a decade of being in the field, it still shocks me to bear witness to the depth of the destruction that mass incarceration has had on the black community.”

Charged: The DA vs. Black America airs Monday, Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. EST on BET.

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