Many people know me as a former NBA star, but I am also someone with a dee personal connection to Vera’s mission. I believe so strongly in Vera’s work that I came on board this year as a trustee and am lending my voice in support of the campaign to end mass incarceration.

This is a critical time for justice in the United States. The movement to fix our justice system has great momentum and bipartisan support, but is still in its earliest days. Last year, overall incarceration rates in the United States decreased by only 1 percent and, in 22 states, those rates actually increased. Like the Civil Rights movement, this movement needs big, early investors and many more partners to achieve its aims and turn around a massive, dysfunctional system that has been built up over 50 years.

I know on a personal level how great the need is. Before I was a Big East player of the year, first-round draft pick for the Miami Heat, and two-time All Star, I was an incarcerated young man. Thanks to some good people in my life, I was lucky and given a hand up. I was not destroyed by the experience like so many who are pushed deeper into an inescapable cycle of disadvantage, exclusion, and unresolved trauma. I have been able to fulfill my potential as a businessman, commentator, author, athlete, and family man. I’m also putting my shoulder into helping advance the Vera Institute of Justice’s important work to end mass incarceration.

Just as Jim Crow was not only a set of laws but a whole system, the far-reaching tentacles of mass incarceration are the biggest barriers facing poor people and Black and brown people today. The effort to end mass incarceration is the Civil Rights movement of our time.

To be clear, I’m not talking just about the 2.2 million people who are incarcerated in jails and prisons in the United States—more than in any other country in the world. It’s also the 4.5 million people on probation and parole, and the overreliance on arrest to address social and mental health problems, and everything in between. There are 10 million arrests a year in this country—or one every three seconds—and this has to change.

Fortunately, leadership and innovation at the local level are not just an essential part of the solution (everyone needs to do their part); they also create models that can be replicated elsewhere. Better data and analysis, strategic communications, narrative change, lifting up the voices and leadership of people who have been incarcerated, and policy and practice solutions are all part of the path forward.

For me, it’s about changing the system from one that destroys whole families to one that helps them succeed in society and fulfill their potential.