John Legend's letter to President Obama addresses criminal justice reform
“First of all, I would like to thank you for your friendship and for your outstanding service to our country,” the singer wrote in the letter, published by Rolling Stone. “I’m particularly grateful for the concrete steps your administration has taken to provide opportunities to tens of millions of young people and families who have been impacted by mass incarceration.”
Citing some of those steps, he expressed his fear over whether or not the Trump administration “will maintain this progress.” He added, “It is unclear what their priorities will be and when families can expect justice.”
According to a report published by the Pew Research Center on Dec. 9, Obama “has granted clemency to more people convicted of federal crimes than any chief executive in nearly 50 years.” As of Nov. 30, he’s “granted clemency to 1,093 individuals (the vast majority convicted of drug-related offenses).”
In his letter, Legend later urged Obama “to consider issuing categorical commutations to bring an end to the injustice that remains in our federal sentencing schemes.” His concluding statement offered the crux of his plea: “Just as George W. Bush urged you to proactively address clemency on your way to your first inauguration in 2009, I am asking you to bring justice to thousands of families by granting as many clemencies as possible before you leave office.”
He reasoned, “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.”
Read Legend’s full letter at Rolling Stone.