John Legend wants to end mass incarceration within the United States.
And he’s using his celebrity power for more than just words. Legend is taking the campaign, Free America, to Texas where he’ll perform at a corrections facility and meet with legislators to raise awareness about the issues at stake.
According to an interview with the Huffington Post, Legend explained, “We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country. 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.”
It’s unclear, as of now, if Legend has specific strategies in mind to combat this problem, but that’s most likely what his discussion with legislators will entail.
Legend isn’t stopping with Texas. He’s taking the campaign across the nation. He will also visit a California state prison later this month. And he’s planning to cohost a criminal justice event with Politico around the same time in Washington, D.C. Other artists involved in the campaign are expected to be announced.
This isn’t the first time Legend has brought up the issue of mass incarceration. The singer used an Academy Award speech this year, where he won with Common for their song “Glory”, to discuss the change needed.
“We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real,” Legend said in his speech. “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.”
Legend also told the Huffington Post that his campaign has already seen positive change: Proposition 47 was approved in California this past November. It redefines shoplifting, forgery, fraud, petty theft and possession of small amounts of drugs — like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines — as misdemeanors. They were previously felonies.
“I’m just trying to create some more awareness to this issue,” Legend explained, “and trying to make some real change legislatively.”