John Legend poses backstage for the duration of the LDF 34th Countrywide Equal Justice Awards Supper on May 10, 2022 in New York City.
Impression credit: Arturo Holmes



John Legend is an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award-successful entertainer, who a short while ago kicked off a Las Vegas residency and just released a new single. But he’s also a well-identified activist and advocate for criminal justice reform and voting rights who has supported a selection of Democratic candidates more than the years.

He’s also throwing his assistance at the rear of a number of progressive prosecutors who are jogging on a assure to reform a felony justice technique that they say is outdated and that disproportionately punishes and more than incarcerates folks of coloration.

Legend, who has a mammoth subsequent on Twitter, just lately shined a spotlight on district attorney races in Tennessee, North Carolina, Oregon and California – arguing that these elections are “crucial to enhancing our felony legal process.”

Most progressive prosecutors, like the ones Legend is endorsing, guidance removing the dying penalty, restricting prosecutions for low-level offenses and ending hard cash bail.

“The truth that these prosecutors are likely into business with the intent, with the purpose of making communities safer but also making them healthier and more powerful and not overusing incarceration as a software to do so, helps make them additional progressive than what we’ve had in the previous,” Legend said.

In an interview with NPR’s Juana Summers, Legend discusses progressive prosecutors, the prison justice method and President Biden’s solution to policing.

These interview highlights contain some more articles that did not air in the broadcast edition.


Interview highlights

Races for district legal professional are not the variety of campaigns that generally get a ton of interest. Was there a moment that produced you want to concentrate on prosecutors?

Prosecutors have so substantially influence above who gets billed, more than what they get charged with, in excess of what sorts of punishment is pursued, what varieties of jail time and bail amounts. And for far also extensive, they were running unopposed, jogging without having much awareness devoted to their elections and working basically with variety of a one-observe appeal: “We’re tricky on crime. We’re likely to lock additional people up. We’re heading to put the poor men in jail.” And that’s all they experienced to say.

So we made the decision we really should start shining a gentle on these nearby elections and we ought to start off encouraging the concept that we could have extra progressive prosecutors in location in these communities. And it would really make a big difference when we’re pursuing the target of “decarceration” and investing in other options that would assist our communities turn into more powerful and much healthier.

When I appeared on line and saw the candidates that you had been tweeting about, they are typically gals or persons of colour – and we need to just be frank here that traditionally, prosecutors, district attorneys, they have mostly been white gentlemen. What benefit do you see to growing the kinds of persons who are in these work opportunities?

Look at an individual like Kim Fox, who we’ve supported two times and she’s been reelected in Prepare dinner County, which is Chicago. She is aware her local community so effectively. She’s a Black lady and she has witnessed all sides of our felony legal technique. She’s a lawyer. She’s a prosecutor, but she also understands family associates and neighborhood customers that have been on the other side of issues who have been locked up. She understands folks who have been survivors and victims of criminal offense, and she knows what it’s like to increase up in some of our most challenged communities. A person with that standpoint, anyone who has an intimate information of the neighborhood that she’s serving and that she comes from, they’re coming to it with an knowledge and a stage of empathy that I think is truly helpful.

When you technique the work of getting a prosecutor extra holistically and much more progressively, it suggests you’re thinking about the results of all of this. You are not just trying to lock extra folks up for extra time. You’re pondering about the people that people folks leave at the rear of and the detrimental cycle that that continues when you have one particular or two of your mothers and fathers locked up and what influence that will have on the child and whether or not they’ll be more most likely to dedicate crime in the upcoming because they’ve lost a mother or father to incarceration.

So you are pondering about more of those things. You have a degree of empathy and comprehension that is larger and far more linked to the neighborhood. And I consider it permits you to make better conclusions that will be holistically additional advantageous for the community.

We just can’t have this conversation with out talking a little bit about criminal offense premiums, which are on the increase in many areas throughout this region. Politically, many opponents of progressive prosecutors seek out to draw a hyperlink amongst the policies of those prosecutors and soaring crime costs. They are essentially earning the position that these form of progressive strategies are fostering lawlessness in communities. What do you say to these individuals?

Crime definitely did go up during the pandemic, and it went up in communities all throughout the place. Poverty went up, unemployment went up in the course of 2020 and 2021. And so a ton of these issues have been significant macro circumstances that modified in all of our communities, whether they experienced a progressive prosecutor or not. And the proof exhibits that there’s no link among owning far more progressive prosecutors and crime going up any more so than it went up in communities that didn’t have 1. But crime has gone up. And so we have to be empathetic to individuals who are viewing additional homelessness in their communities. They are looking at a lot more despair, they are observing extra psychological health and fitness difficulties, much more drug dependency in their communities. And they are stating, we have obtained to do some thing about this.

We need to empathize with people who are emotion that and looking at that mainly because it is serious. The option is not, we have to have to be far more punitive as a modern society. The alternative is, we have to have to get the job done on all these concerns that induce despair, that cause poverty, that cause food items insecurity, that result in housing insecurity. Concentration on those locations, make investments in those areas and not in a a lot more punitive criminal authorized program.

You had been among the artists and entertainers who executed through inaugural functions for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. I want to ask you about how the president and his administration have positioned on their own on these problems. We heard the president lately urging towns and states to expend additional unspent COVID relief funds to pay for extra crime avoidance applications and hiring additional officers.

I really don’t concur with that recommendation. We presently spend additional dollars on policing in The usa than any other nation spends on their armed forces, apart from the United States and China. So if expending the most on policing were the alternative to make us harmless, we would previously be the safest state in the world. If spending much more on incarceration ended up going to be the remedy to make us far more safe and sound, we would be the safest country in the entire world, but we’re not.

So possibly we really should contemplate investing that revenue on things that will be a lot more edifying and really stop a lot more crime. Factors like battling foods insecurity, working with people’s psychological well being troubles, dealing with people with material abuse challenges, finding other interventions that will make our communities safer and healthier. We by now are seeking the thought of spending the most on policing and the most on jailing and incarcerating people today. Why don’t we try some other ideas?

We really should just accept listed here that we’re obtaining this conversation in the wake of the mass shooting in the predominantly Black part of Buffalo, N.Y. and that has sparked and renewed this dialogue about basic safety and racial disparities in policing, which seems tied pretty intently to the function that you are doing.

We just can’t talk about any of this with out talking about guns. So if you feel about the things that we are Ok with in The united states. We expend all this dollars on policing, we commit all this funds on jailing and incarcerating folks, but we also have this sort of a permissive gun lifestyle that we have additional guns in this country than human beings.

So when we evaluate ourselves to other nations and we’re wanting to know why we’re not the safest region in the environment regardless of expending so a great deal on policing, despite expending so considerably on incarceration, potentially the explanation is that so several men and women have these types of easy obtain to guns and such a vary of guns with this kind of a array of capacities available to anybody who wants them.

Why is an 18 year outdated strolling all-around with an AR-15? Why is an 18 year aged staying uncovered to this “great replacement” concept on Fox Information and on other parts on the net and in throughout lifestyle without there becoming some kind of check out on the availability of that kind of indoctrination and rhetoric? Why? Why? Why? So if we truly want to be safer, we will need to glimpse at gun culture. We have to have to glance at some of this detest speech that is is grooming foreseeable future terrorists and truly concentrate on all those regions – target on basically creating us safer and building our communities much healthier.

When you believe about the span of your vocation so much, your advocacy, your activism. Who are the products that have formed your tactic?

Harry Belafonte, Paul Robeson, Stevie Speculate, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin. Some of them ended up more seen, some of them had been behind the scenes funding activists and funding the movement, and some of them designed tunes that spoke right to it. Some of them again were much more at the rear of the scenes. But all of them knew that they were in a one of a kind placement. They had been in a one of a kind situation of electrical power and influence. And they used that impact to struggle for justice and make transform and fight for equality.

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