For more than 27 years, Eric Riddick has been serving his life sentence in South Philadelphia for the alleged first-degree murder of his friend. He has not been granted an appeal in Philadelphia Supreme Court due to the untimeliness of receiving and, consequently, presenting the new evidence to prove his innocence. Under the state's Post Conviction Relief Act, a defendant must file a petition for relief within a year of the judgment becoming final.

There are a few exceptions, one of which is if the defendant obtains new evidence. But even then, a petition must be filed within 60 days of when the claim could have been presented. Unfortunately, Mr. Riddick did not receive this information until 2003, which was 11 years later after he was initially locked up. Three friends that were with Eric at the time of the shooting were listed as alibi witnesses, but were never called to testify by Eric's court-appointed defense lawyer. Even the wound of the victim didn't match the witness’s testimony that allegedly saw Mr. Riddick commit the murder. If Eric had shot William Catlett from an elevated fire escape, the bullet would have entered his body at a downward trajectory. Therefore, it is scientifically impossible for Eric to have been the shooter.

Additionally, two different bullet types were found in Catlett’s body, both .22 and .32 caliber bullets. This fact proves there were two shooters involved, further disproving the key witness' testimony. The witness later even recanted his statement in a July 1999 affidavit. Mr. Riddick still was left with no options and told there was nothing he could do, thanks to the poorly conceived statutes.

There has always been a need for a strategic plan for prison reform and the fact that we aren't discussing the exoneration of Mr. Riddick displays the disregard for this man's life, and the inability or lack of willingness for people who are not of color to sympathize and understand the plight of groups who suffer the most frequent instances of discrimination. The reason why people of color can identify with the situation is that altercations with cops have been consistent subject matters found within the art and music scene.

People of color are victims of mass incarceration, racial profiling and other unjust portrayals of discrimination that contribute to the inherent biases found in the justice system. According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. jail and prison population are around 2.2 million. Just to give you a mental picture, that is around the size of the entire population of Houston, Texas!

These unjust acts are an infringement on civil liberties. The justice system has wrongfully convicted and been a disservice to far too many innocent Black men, especially while other groups get a slap on the wrist or, at least, a reasonable sentence with sufficient evidence. If we are going to assess the magnitude of any crime, we need to know and understand the laws and have representation in the courts along with advocacy on the stand. We cannot continue to be killed or kept in cages.

Rapper Meek Mill has shown his advocacy efforts regarding prison reform, taking the appropriate steps to start the conversation of why mass incarceration should no longer be a norm in our society. The instances of young Black people being incarcerated for marijuana is problematic and demonstrates once again that every lucrative idea we have can be reinvented through a lens that seems less criminal and sinister. Being from a big city, I can remember several times when my family members were profiled and because of their knowledge of criminal procedures, they were able to avoid possibly life-threatening situations.

We have to continue the conversation in advocating for change. I advise everyone to continue the conversation, find out who your representative is and set up a meeting to help your community, today. Then, ask yourself what steps we can take to implement a new policy to fix these issues within our society. The current 116th session of Congress is the most diverse group of changemakers in American History. Everything starts as a conversation. We cannot wait any longer.