John Legend: US ‘most incarcerated country on Earth’

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Musician John Legend on Wednesday argued that too many Americans are languishing in prison after receiving punishments too harsh for their crimes.

{mosads}The Texas Tribune reported that the singer-songwriter will visit and perform at Austin’s Travis County Correctional Complex on Thursday. Legend will push state lawmakers for criminal justice reforms during his visit there.

“We have more jails and prisons in the United States than we have colleges and universities,” Legend said.

“We’re the most incarcerated country on Earth,” he continued. “And we believe it’s time to reverse that.”

Legend charged that prison sentences too often outweighed prisoners’ crimes. The Grammy winner argued that lawmakers should revisit such penalties and make them more just for Americans facing lengthy criminal sentences.

“We understand the need for justice, and we understand that, if someone commits a crime, there needs to be some kind of justice that comes along with that,” he said.

“But we think we can do it in a smarter way,” he continued. “We made a decision as a nation the last 40 years to deal with it by ratcheting up sentences for everything, and that hasn’t be productive.”

The “All of Me” crooner’s comments come after the launch of his FREE AMERICA initiative on Monday in New York. The Associated Press reported the multi-year project aims at shrinking the number of long-term incarcerations nationwide.

The AP said a central portion of FREE AMERICA’s strategy revolves around reducing felonies for nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors. This includes criminal charges for shoplifting, forgery, fraud, petty theft and minor drug possession, it added.

“Once you have that tag of a felony on your name, it’s hard for you to do anything,” Legend said Monday.

Legend on Monday cited Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as two lawmakers he believed were making legitimate progress on criminal justice reform. Paul, also a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, has made the issue a central part of his campaign.

Legend won the Academy Award for best original song in February. The singer took home an Oscar for his recording of “Glory,” a tune he penned for the Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic “Selma.”

Tags Criminal law Felony Incarceration John Legend Sentencing reform

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