John Legend Blasts American Prison System

Singer and songwriter John Legend recently took to Time‘s website to decry the problems with the American Prison system.

This comes in the wake of President Obama’s historic prison visit and announcement to commute the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders. Legend praised the President’s decision, but feels that it’s “…just a drop in an ocean of lives that have been torn apart by the War on Drugs and the era of mass incarceration.” Legend compared the American prison system to a facility he visited in Portugal. Portugal has decriminalized drugs, and Legend said that it was like “…stepping through a looking glass — but into a more just system.” The issue of addiction treatment is a personal one for Legend, who also opened up about his mother’s experiences with drug abuse and addiction following the death of her mother, Legend’s grandmother.

Legend noted that there is some progress being made, citing the passing of California’s Prop 47, which reclassified some minor drug crimes from Felonies to Misdemeanors.

“Thanks to Prop 47’s passage, tens of thousands of California inmates are now eligible for release, and nearly a million Californians are eligible to be freed from the label ‘felon.’ “

This isn’t the first time Legend has spoken out against the prison system. In April, John announced the launch of Free America, his ongoing campaign to end mass incarceration. Legend hosted a civil rights and criminal justice panel for Politico shortly after the announcement, on the eve of the White House Correspondents dinner. Panel members included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Attorney General Eric Holder, and many other high profile names. Legend also has plans to visit several prisons as part of the campaign, including a facility in Austin, where he will also perform.

As recently as June, Legend has blasted the prison system. In an essay for Vulture, Legend blamed the New York prison system for the suicide of Kalief Browder, a young man who was arrested and spent three years in prison after accusations that he stole a backpack. Legend maintains that it was abuse Browder encountered in the system that led to his suicide. According to Legend, Browder spent “700 to 800 days of those three years in solitary confinement.”

John’s ire isn’t exclusive to the prison system, either. Following the Charleston massacre, Legend took to Twitter to discuss the state of race relations in America. He retweeted photos of the Governor of South Carolina apparently enjoying herself while firing an assault rifle. Legend also retweeted several messages that blasted the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate.

[Photo by Jason Bahr / Getty Images]