I’m only vaguely familiar with John Legend. So far as I know, I’ve never heard any of his music, though it’s possible that I’ve heard a song or two without knowing it was his. But I’m certainly a fan of his social activism, especially his new campaign to try to end America’s mass incarceration system.
John Legend has launched a campaign to end mass incarceration.
The Grammy-winning singer announced the multiyear initiative, FREE AMERICA, on Monday. He will visit and perform at a correctional facility on Thursday in Austin, Texas, where he also will be part of a press conference with state legislators to discuss Texas’ criminal justice system.
“We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country,” Legend said in an interview. “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, 36, will also visit a California state prison and co-host a criminal justice event with Politico in Washington, D.C., later this month. The campaign will include help from other artists — to be announced — and organizations committed to ending mass incarceration.
“I’m just trying to create some more awareness to this issue and trying to make some real change legislatively,” he said. “And we’re not the only ones. There are senators that are looking at this, like Rand Paul and Cory Booker, there are other nonprofits that are looking at this, and I just wanted to add my voice to that.”
But let’s be clear about this: There is no way to make a serious dent in mass incarceration without ending the war on drugs, which is the primary cause of not only mass incarceration but of massive corruption in law enforcement and all manner of constitutional violations.