John Legend: 'Mass Incarceration Doesn't Make Us Safer'

John Legend witnessed addiction at a young age: "It tore me and the rest of our family apart."

On the heels of Pres. Obama commuting the sentences of 46 prisoners in jail on drug-related charges (three of them for marijuana), singer John Legend weighs in with a powerful column in Time magazine.

He begins by discussing his mother's addiction:

'As a teenager growing up in Ohio, I watched my mother disappear into more than a decade of drugs and despair after my maternal grandmother – a person who filled our whole family with love – passed away. My mother’s addiction didn’t just tear her life apart; it tore me and the rest of our family apart, too… We’ve been going about it wrong. My mother didn’t need punishment; she needed help. Criminalizing drug abuse only further shatters people and families that are already in pieces.'

Legend agrees with Hillary Clinton, who has said, "It's time to end the era of mass incarceration":

'For four decades, we've embraced the lie that incarceration makes us safer – that it protects us from “dangerous” people. Mass incarceration does not make us safer; it makes us more vulnerable. It destroys communities, wastes resources, separates families, ruins lives. It's the result of policies that criminalize poverty and make prisons and jails become warehouses for deeply damaged people with little or no access to mental health or substance abuse treatment. Instead, let’s invest those resources in our neighbors and family members so they don’t end up in the system to begin with, and if they do, so they can get back on their feet… It’s time to stop warring and start healing.'

Read the entire article here.

Legend was an executive producer of the drug-war expose, The House I Live In. In 2013, he called for the legalization of marijuana.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.