Despite how unbelievable it is, ABC’s new drama For Life is, in fact, based on a real story of a man becoming a lawyer while serving a prison sentence. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. The show seems to be going down the more predictable route of calling the justice system broken. Some things never change.
The February 11 pilot sees wrongfully convicted man Aaron Wallace (Nicholas Pinnock) surprisingly earning a law degree while in prison. He then uses his knowledge to help his fellow inmates and overturn unfair sentences, all while working to overturn his own case. However, his first case before the bench immediately grows personal since it involves him going up against one of the assistant district attorney “bastards” that put him in prison.
Despite Wallace’s demeanor in court, he doesn’t mince words when it comes to the system that put him in prison. In a local news report, Wallace outright calls the system “broke for anybody who doesn’t have power or money” and directly calls out District Attorney Glen Maskins (Boris McGiver), the main lawyer against him.
Sally Braver: Are you saying the District Attorney’s office is racist?
Wallace: I’ll leave that for other people to decide. But there’s no question the system’s broke for anybody who doesn’t have power or money. Overcharging people who can’t afford a lawyer, then forcing them into a plea is an epidemic in this country. And if you look at the numbers, the Bronx has been one of the worst under Glen Maskins.
Sally Braver: The timing on this has got to be difficult for Maskins, who’s in a neck-and-neck battle in the upcoming election for Attorney General against Brooklyn D.A. Anya Harrison.
Maskins: You drop everything else on your plate and do not even contemplate losing this case.
Of course, Wallace is only proven more right as circumstances in the prison make his case more difficult, including a prison bus driver diverting his trip and making him late to court. His only real solace in the system is the prison warden Safiya Masry (Indira Varma) who gave him the opportunity to study law in the first place. She also happens to be a progressive lesbian trailblazing in prison reforms married to the current Attorney General Anya Harrison (Mary Stuart Masterson). Apparently, the system’s not that bad as long as white men aren’t in charge.
As expected, Wallace wins his first trial and plans to continue his unorthodox process to one day retry his own case. And that means we can be sure to see plenty of more opportunities for progressive lecturing in the future. After all, the show’s producer Curtis Jackson, aka rapper 50 Cent, recently described the story as “too ‘now’ and too current.” One of the show’s stars, Joy Bryant, also commented, “It’s a great time for this show to exist. Five years ago, maybe it wouldn’t have. It’s the right show at the right time.” So, be prepared for more “current” and “right” beliefs from prison lawyer Aaron Wallace.