Grammy- and Oscar Award-winning singer John Legend has launched a campaign to end mass incarceration.
Last week Legend announced a multi-year initiative called Free America that seeks put an end to mass incarceration by helping to ensure that excessive penalties are not given for minor offenses.
On April 16 Legend performed at an Austin, Texas, correctional facility and took part in a conference with state legislators.
“We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country,” Legend said. “It’s destroying families, it’s destroying communities and we’re the most incarcerated country in the world, and when you look deeper and look at the reasons we got to this place, we as a society made some choices politically and legislatively, culturally to deal with poverty, deal with mental illness in a certain way and that way usually involves using incarceration.”
Legend says California’s passage of Prop 47 last November was a catalyst for his Free America movement. Prop 47 called for a list of nonviolent crimes such as fraud, forgery, petty theft, possession of small amounts of drugs, and shoplifting to count as misdemeanors as opposed to felonies.
“Once you have that tag of a felony on your name, it’s hard for you to do anything,” Legend asserts. “Getting those reduced to misdemeanors really impacted a lot of lives and we hope to launch more initiatives like that around the country.”