'Perversion of Justice' film showing at Unitarian Universalist church

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 | 4:31 p.m. CST; updated 10:30 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

COLUMBIA — Her choices were grim: stay with her abusive boyfriend or flee to a drug-dealing cousin in hopes of a safer life for herself and her daughters. Hamedah Hasan chose the latter. Her cousin’s drug ring was busted, and now she’s spending time in prison. Her story has received national attention, and concerned people such as the Rev. Melissa Mummert are fighting to give Hasan, and others like her, a voice.

Mummert, a Columbia native who lives in Charlotte, N.C., will be showing her documentary, “Perversion of Justice,” on what she sees as the failures of our legal and prison systems at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia.

“Just rounding up people and throwing them away isn’t working,” Mummert said.

Mummert is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and an activist for incarcerated parents and their children. Mummert’s film features Hasan, who is serving time in a federal prison in California for refusing to reveal information about her cousin’s drug activities. Hasan was charged as a co-conspirator in the drug case and sentenced to two life sentences because of mandatory federal sentencing guidelines.

According to the Columbia Unitarian Universalist church’s newsletter, Mummert decided to make the documentary about sentencing guidelines and drug conspiracy laws while serving as a chaplain intern at a federal prison in California, where parts of the film where shot.

“I wanted to humanize the prisoners,” Mummert said. “You read about their sentencing in the paper but you don’t know their whole stories.”

Mummert said the lack of context is a problem for society’s conceptions of prisoners as well as with a judge’s decision.

“Judges don’t look at the whole person, but only at their mistake,” Mummert said. “Judges just look at how many grams of crack cocaine you were allegedly caught with.”

Mummert said society thinks all people in prison are bad people and that she hopes to change that image.

Hasan has been in prison for 14 years. Mummert said she does everything possible to be a good mother to her three daughters, the youngest of which was born in the prison. Mummert said that Hasan e-mails her daughters daily and calls them as much as she can. Mummert said she wishes Hasan were out from behind bars.

“She could be doing so much good on the outside as a mom,” Mummert said.

This movie viewing is free and open to the public, with a reception to follow.

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