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There's an epidemic in this country where many young men end up in jail. It's easy to say this is because the system is failing the youth, but if you were to ask Denzel Washington, he will give you a very different explanation.

When promoting his new film about a defense lawyer, “Roman J. Israel Esq.,” he was asked by a New York Daily News reporter if the role affected his view of the justice system. Washington's simple reply caught everyone off guard:

“It starts at home.”

Washington went on to explain what he meant:

"It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn't have a father figure, he'll go find a father figure.

So you know I can't blame the system. It's unfortunate that we make such easy work for them."

Washington once shared in an interview with Reuters about experiences he had early in his life that formed this worldview:

“I grew up with guys who did decades (in prison) and it had as much to do with their fathers not being in their lives as it did to do with any system.”

He admits that he did many of the same things as the guys from his childhood but never went as far as they did:

“I just didn't get caught, but they kept going down that road and then they were in the hands of the system.”

Washington's comments bring to light important social issues. The prison system itself does need work, however, as Washington observes, “But it's about the formative years. You're not born a criminal.”

Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.

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