Arturo Holmes/Getty Pictures for Authorized Protection Fund
John Legend is an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award-winning entertainer, who not too long ago kicked off a Las Vegas residency and simply launched a brand new single. However he is additionally a widely known activist and advocate for prison justice reform and voting rights who has supported numerous Democratic candidates over time.
He is additionally throwing his assist behind numerous progressive prosecutors who’re working on a promise to reform a prison justice system that they are saying is outdated and that disproportionately punishes and over incarcerates folks of coloration.
Legend, who has a mammoth following on Twitter, not too long ago shined a highlight on district legal professional races in Tennessee, North Carolina, Oregon and California – arguing that these elections are “essential to enhancing our prison authorized system.”
Most progressive prosecutors, like those Legend is endorsing, assist eliminating the dying penalty, limiting prosecutions for low-level offenses and ending money bail.
“The truth that these prosecutors are going into workplace with the intent, with the aim of creating communities safer but in addition making them more healthy and stronger and never overusing incarceration as a instrument to take action, makes them extra progressive than what we have had previously,” Legend stated.
In an interview with NPR’s Juana Summers, Legend discusses progressive prosecutors, the prison justice system and President Biden’s method to policing.
These interview highlights comprise some extra content material that didn’t air within the broadcast model.
Races for district legal professional usually are not the sort of campaigns that sometimes get a ton of consideration. Was there a second that made you wish to concentrate on prosecutors?
Prosecutors have a lot affect over who will get charged, over what they get charged with, over what sorts of punishment is pursued, what sorts of jail time and bail quantities. And for much too lengthy, they had been working unopposed, working with out a lot consideration dedicated to their elections and working mainly with sort of a one-note enchantment: “We’re powerful on crime. We will lock extra folks up. We will put the dangerous guys in jail.” And that is all they needed to say.
So we determined we should always begin shining a light-weight on these native elections and we should always begin encouraging the concept we may have extra progressive prosecutors in place in these communities. And it will really make an enormous distinction after we’re pursuing the aim of “decarceration” and investing in different options that will assist our communities change into stronger and more healthy.
District Legal professional elections are essential to enhancing our prison authorized system and 2022 is a 12 months with 1000’s of races. These are the upcoming elections in TN, NC, OR, and CA I’m paying shut consideration to. Extra details about DA elections is right here: https://t.co/fdkUmQgWqb
— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 13, 2022
After I appeared on-line and noticed the candidates that you simply had been tweeting about, they’re usually ladies or folks of coloration – and we should always simply be frank right here that traditionally, prosecutors, district attorneys, they’ve largely been white males. What profit do you see to increasing the kinds of people who find themselves in these jobs?
Have a look at somebody like Kim Fox, who we have supported twice and she or he’s been reelected in Cook dinner County, which is Chicago. She is aware of her group so effectively. She’s a Black lady and she or he has seen all sides of our prison authorized system. She’s a lawyer. She’s a prosecutor, however she additionally is aware of relations and group members which were on the opposite aspect of issues who’ve been locked up. She is aware of people who’ve been survivors and victims of crime, and she or he is aware of what it is wish to develop up in a few of our most challenged communities. Somebody with that perspective, somebody who has an intimate data of the group that she’s serving and that she comes from, they’re coming to it with an expertise and a stage of empathy that I believe is basically useful.
While you method the job of being a prosecutor extra holistically and extra progressively, it means you are fascinated with the results of all of this. You are not simply making an attempt to lock extra folks up for extra time. You are fascinated with the households that these people depart behind and the unfavorable cycle that that continues when you might have one or two of your mother and father locked up and what impact that may have on the child and whether or not or not they will be extra prone to commit crime sooner or later as a result of they’ve misplaced a father or mother to incarceration.
So that you’re fascinated with extra of these issues. You’ve got a stage of empathy and understanding that’s larger and extra related to the group. And I believe it lets you make higher choices that will probably be holistically extra helpful for the group.
We will not have this dialog with out speaking a bit about crime charges, that are on the rise in lots of locations throughout this nation. Politically, many opponents of progressive prosecutors search to attract a hyperlink between the insurance policies of these prosecutors and rising crime charges. They’re basically making the purpose that these form of progressive approaches are fostering lawlessness in communities. What do you say to these folks?
Crime actually did go up in the course of the pandemic, and it went up in communities all throughout the nation. Poverty went up, unemployment went up throughout 2020 and 2021. And so a number of this stuff had been huge macro circumstances that modified in all of our communities, whether or not they had a progressive prosecutor or not. And the proof exhibits that there is not any hyperlink between having extra progressive prosecutors and crime going up any extra so than it went up in communities that did not have one. However crime has gone up. And so now we have to be empathetic to people who’re seeing extra homelessness of their communities. They’re seeing extra despair, they’re seeing extra psychological well being points, extra drug dependency of their communities. And so they’re saying, we have to do one thing about this.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Pictures for The Recording Academy
We have to empathize with people who’re feeling that and seeing that as a result of it’s actual. The answer is not, we must be extra punitive as a society. The answer is, we have to work on all these points that trigger despair, that trigger poverty, that trigger meals insecurity, that trigger housing insecurity. Deal with these areas, spend money on these areas and never in a extra punitive prison authorized system.
You had been among the many artists and entertainers who carried out throughout inaugural occasions for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. I wish to ask you about how the president and his administration have positioned themselves on these points. We heard the president not too long ago urging cities and states to spend extra unspent COVID reduction cash to pay for extra crime prevention packages and hiring extra officers.
I do not agree with that suggestion. We already spend more cash on policing in America than another nation spends on their navy, except for america and China. So if spending probably the most on policing had been the answer to make us protected, we might already be the most secure nation on this planet. If spending extra on incarceration had been going to be the answer to make us extra protected, we might be the most secure nation on this planet, however we’re not.
So possibly we should always contemplate spending that cash on issues that will probably be extra edifying and truly forestall extra crime. Issues like combating meals insecurity, coping with folks’s psychological well being points, coping with folks with substance abuse points, discovering different interventions that may make our communities safer and more healthy. We already try the thought of spending probably the most on policing and probably the most on jailing and incarcerating folks. Why do not we strive another concepts?
We must always simply acknowledge right here that we’re having this dialog within the wake of the mass capturing within the predominantly Black a part of Buffalo, N.Y. and that has sparked and renewed this dialog about security and racial disparities in policing, which appears tied very carefully to the work that you simply’re doing.
We will not discuss any of this with out speaking about weapons. So if you concentrate on the issues that we’re OK with in America. We spend all this cash on policing, we spend all this cash on jailing and incarcerating folks, however we even have such a permissive gun tradition that now we have extra weapons on this nation than human beings.
So after we examine ourselves to different nations and we’re questioning why we’re not the most secure nation on this planet regardless of spending a lot on policing, regardless of spending a lot on incarceration, maybe the reason being that so many individuals have such easy accessibility to weapons and such a variety of weapons with such a variety of capacities out there to anyone who needs them.
Why is an 18 12 months outdated strolling round with an AR-15? Why is an 18 12 months outdated being uncovered to this “nice alternative” concept on Fox Information and on different areas on the web and in all through tradition with out there being some sort of examine on the provision of that sort of indoctrination and rhetoric? Why? Why? Why? So if we actually wish to be safer, we have to have a look at gun tradition. We have to have a look at a few of this hate speech that’s is grooming future terrorists and actually concentrate on these areas – concentrate on really making us safer and making our communities more healthy.
When you concentrate on the span of your profession thus far, your advocacy, your activism. Who’re the fashions which have formed your method?
Harry Belafonte, Paul Robeson, Stevie Marvel, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin. A few of them had been extra seen, a few of them had been behind the scenes funding activists and funding the motion, and a few of them made music that spoke on to it. A few of them once more had been extra behind the scenes. However all of them knew that they had been in a singular place. They had been in a singular place of energy and affect. And so they used that affect to combat for justice and make change and combat for equality.