John Legend kicks off ‘FREE AMERICA’ campaign at state Capitol


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Award-winning artist John Legend is traveling across the country to help solve America’s prison problem. Legend kicked off his multi-year campaign called “FREE AMERICA” at the state Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. The campaign aims to end mass incarceration by changing the penalties for some crimes.

Legend is working with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, state legislators and coalition partners to build a culture that is not “tough on crime” but rather, “smart on crime.”

“We need to scale back on our sentencing policies. They are too long and too harsh,” he said. “I am supporting a number of bills pending in the legislature that would change and update the penalties for some crimes.

“Crimes such as driving with an invalid license, low-level marijuana possession, prostitution, property crimes, as well as reclassify certain misdemeanor and felony offenses and save the state over $163 million in the process.”

He adds that changing the lengths of some of these sentences would allow more people to receive probation instead of jail time.

The Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning artist will also be meeting with state legislators, law enforcement and inmates to help improve the country’s justice system. Austin was the campaign’s first official stop. Earlier in the day, Legend performed at the Travis County Correctional Complex and met with state legislators and advocacy organizations.

“I am visiting county jails and state prisons and will continue to visit more — to listen, to learn, to be led by those most affected as I do whatever I can to end mass incarceration,” said Legend.

According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, there are about 725,000 adults in Texas that are currently in jail, on probation, or on parole.

“Texas has been a leader and I am here working alongside legislators and advocates who believe that every Texan deserves a better justice system,” said Legend. “They say everything is bigger in Texas; unfortunately, so are your prisons and jails. I don’t believe that is because there are more criminals in Texas. Texans deserve a better justice system.”

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