John Legend Pens Letter to Obama About Prison Reform

By Dominick Fils-Aimé | December 11, 2016

With Trump being the incumbent President of the United States, and President Obama’s term soon coming to an end, many high profile celebrities are seeking radical changes from the last seemingly reasonable President…before the guy who tweets takes office. One of those celebrities, who has championed the anti-mass incarceration cause, is Grammy award winning R&B artist John Legend, who recently penned an open letter urging President Obama to pardon the thousands of Americans serving sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

Legend cited legislation passed in California, Oklahoma, Florida, and other states to reclassify various drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, essentially treating drug possession as a violation as opposed to a serious crime. Legend also noted that many drug laws implicate our legal system in showing racial biases, as sentences for drugs better known to be used and sold in urban minority environments carry heavier sentences relative to narcotics more associated with suburban and wealthier urban communities.

“I urge you to consider issuing categorical commutations to bring an end to the injustice that remains in our federal sentencing schemes,” Legend wrote in an open letter published by Rolling Stone. “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. 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 is not the first member of the Hip Hop community to make such a plea, as the likes of Pusha T, Jim Jones and Russell Simmons have shared similar sentiments, more specifically concerned with the sentencing disparity between violations for powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. Despite the fact that powdered cocaine is used to make crack cocaine, rock cocaine is met with more severe consequences.


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