John Legend Petitions President Obama To End Mass Incarceration


Barack Obama has less than 40 days left to serve in his final term as president, but John Legend has one very last request. In an open letter published in Rolling Stone, the R&B singer asked the Head of State to grant clemency to as many of the nation’s non-violent, federal drug offenders as possible before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

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“Before you leave office, I would like to add my voice to the more than 2 million Americans who have asked you to use your clemency and pardon powers to bring justice to the thousands of families of non-violent drug offenders who have waited far too long for Congress to act,”  Legend began his petition to POTUS. While the “All of Me” artist recognized Obama’s efforts to resolve more than 900 of those drug-related sentences, more than 300 of them being life sentences, he acknowledged that there is still more work to be done. “I urge you to consider issuing categorical commutations to bring an end to the injustice that remains in our federal sentencing schemes. For example, approximately 5,000 individuals are serving sentences based on prejudiced laws which punished drug crimes involving crack cocaine more severely than crimes involving powder cocaine,” he continued. “Rectifying these crack-powder disparities would not only correct the mistakes of the past, but could save taxpayers just over $150 million per year and keep with public sentiment about the over-incarceration and criminalization of drug crimes.”

Legend also noted the passing of the Proposition 57 law in many states, which allows the recreational uses of marijuana. The new form of passed legislation, active in states like California, Colorado, the Dakotas, and Florida, help expand parole and time off for good behavior for nonviolent offenses. Additionally, in some states certain drug offenses have been downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors.

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Legend concluded his letter, pleading for Obama to bring broken families back together and justice for all. “At the birth of our nation, the Founding Fathers entrusted the clemency responsibility to the President,” he stated, also mentioning an article from the U.S. Constitution. “I am asking you to bring justice to thousands of families by granting as many clemencies as possible before you leave office.”

Unfortunately, there is an estimated 36,000 non-violent drug offenders locked away in federal prisons, according to statistics mentioned in Legend’s note. In addition to writing this heartfelt note, the singer has openly spoken out about mass incarceration and campaign for criminal justice reform with the #FREEAMERICA initiative.

To read John Legend’s full letter, click here.