Hill Harper: Actor on a Mission to Fight U.S.'s Problem of 'Hyper-Incarceration'

Harper's new "Letters to an Incarcerated Brother" offers help to inmates, advice for society.
3:00 | 11/07/13

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Transcript for Hill Harper: Actor on a Mission to Fight U.S.'s Problem of 'Hyper-Incarceration'
Hi I'm Lindsay Janice and this -- news makers for ABC news and Yahoo! News. Hill Harper acted on the hit show CSI New York as doctor Sheldon -- for nine seasons. He's now in Covert affairs. You can kind of -- he is. But sometimes you have to recognize that he has lost and actually that decision is the -- -- again. The when he is not acting he's writing -- best sellers his fifth book out now is entitled letters to an incarcerated brother. It was inspired by letters written to him by prisoners. And this -- his attempt to offer a -- and ducks hope and solutions. So you've studied the prison system and -- yes and you say that it's -- -- what's wrong with that. -- System incarcerations country is. More than broke. We just look at some of the date. You go back about thirty years we about 300000. Incarcerate people in this country now we have 2.4. Million. The primary individuals were locking up. -- African American and Latino. And immigrant young men. They come from primarily -- and decrepit public school systems in districts and some people talk about this as a new Jim Crow or as modern day. Slavery. You come from a privileged background and you went to harbor and you had doctors his parents. The very eve done -- very impressive thing but do you now. About people and let's -- let's be honest most of us have made mistakes paralyzed. And most of us. Have gotten away with things we probably should have done and you know we we we made choices that we -- But the crime should always fit. Sentence but what we're doing in this country we're -- people for very long periods of time -- for mostly nonviolent drug offenses. You could have five grams. Crack cocaine which is not a lot -- relatively small man who won't. And their people are doing twelve to fourteen years from now. That's a big penalty. And -- the twelve to fourteen years once -- get out with that felony it's virtually impossible. To get a job to mark against you for life for a life. Since you have this -- more is extremely difficult on the most difficult things there is to do is to find the legitimate jobs unpaid bills stuff. And if you are in a situation where you have limited education opportunities you don't have any money you can't get a job. Forty -- do you're going to go back to this criminal network that you actually made while you were in. Prison. And you also say that the prison system -- Is manipulative and it's almost designed to break people and make sure they end up coming back the American taxpayer you and -- Our funding people being incarcerated. But there's a very small group of people that are actually getting rich off that there incentivized to make sure people come back to where the privatization of prisons. In these in these these corporations actually publicly traded. On stock exchange. And what you can do this is an investor -- actually invest in the idea that we're going to walk more people and what happens if your private prison. You are actually incentivized to make sure you're not doing any rehabilitation at all. And you're coming back and so one only one of the young people and I interviewed that are incarcerated. Told me that a CEO which is a corrections officer. But -- of these private prisons told him every day that he was glad he was here because it gave him job security. So what -- we do a few lines from the letter that inspired you to write this book my name is Brian -- sixteen years old and I'm in jail. There he goes on to say you -- in your pocket many young people don't have a role model I didn't have wanted and that's why I'm in jail they have one now. And his name is Hill Harper. What I read -- a letter. And I teared up because. The vulnerability in the letter for a young man who was imprisoned. The way it's written in a very simple. Language almost -- fourth grade reading level. And I thought about how long -- must take and every -- personable for him to take the time to write me a letter not knowing. If I never even get a committee says that a letter -- money maturity in this ever seen this. -- and it moved me and you know I still get some I think -- still talking to this day. A lot of this focused about. Giving advice to people in prison where what what is tutored -- well let's be clear this book. Is not just for individuals who are in prison. In a physical person than many of us are in. Prisons not made of iron bars that I hope this -- -- set for. -- many of us are trapped in different ways and so it fundamentally speaking. It is a motivational book -- a book about inspiration about the book that reinforces the day the idea of the fact -- -- matter who you walk no matter where you're from you can live a great life. But this is your messages while and it has always been your message to young African Americans don't have a pity party. You could be born in the wrong house at the wrong time to the wrong parents in the wrong situation and wrong wrong wrong. Still here. It's still continue to make sure that you live the best life you can instill your choice to be made so -- don't have the information. Did -- don't have the resources finds one's gonna help you get if you don't have people around you to be to to model good behavior after. The simply your own personal board of directors by any means nothing here you are an actor -- -- -- on CSI New York can now -- Covert affairs. They're -- man. -- -- -- -- Your mission to do my best we got 121000 they would sleep for what -- and we got plenty hours to do a lot so. I I attempted to work as hard as I can intended. -- don't sleep on them.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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