Capitol Alert

VIDEO: John Legend praises California’s Prop. 47 as model for criminal justice

John Legend performs at SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 21, 2015.
John Legend performs at SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 21, 2015. The Associated Press

Evoking at times the civil rights struggle, Grammy-winning singer John Legend praised California’s Proposition 47 on Monday as a model for the rest of the country to rectify what he considers misguided tough-on-crime policies.

“Mass incarceration doesn’t make us safer. It actually makes us all more vulnerable” by breaking up families and communities, Legend told a crime victims conference in Sacramento organized by Californians for Safety and Justice, which coordinated the Proposition 47 campaign. “That’s what we’ve failed to grapple with over the past 40 years, as we’ve criminalized more and more acts, and enacted harsher and harsher punishments.”

Legend said he contributed to the Proposition 47 campaign last year and participated in phone banks to support the initiative, which reduced a variety of nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors to address overcrowding in California prisons. Any budget savings will be put toward rehabilitation and other crime prevention programs, victim services, and fighting school truancy.

Facing little organized opposition, Proposition 47 passed overwhelmingly in November. But it has since experienced a growing backlash, with lawmakers introducing several bills this session to reverse components of the law.

Though unfamiliar with the details of the legislation, Legend said he opposed any efforts to roll back Proposition 47 and was pursuing similar policies in other states through a newly-launched campaign called Free America. “The people have spoken and the people have chosen fairness and justice,” Legend told reporters following his address.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who introduced Legend as “the reason I got invited,” joined him in supporting Proposition 47 and a criminal justice system focused more on rehabilitation, trauma recovery and preventing recidivism. He thanked the Legislature for taking a more thoughtful approach to crime in recent years.

“It’s not the raging ideological war we’ve had in the past,” Newsom told reporters.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee