In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision on the fate of Roe v. Wade, and in the face of a new Alabama law making it a felony for a doctor to provide gender-affirming care for trans youth, John Legend published an impassioned op-ed in USA Today calling for the elevation of progressive prosecutors who champion criminal justice reform.
“I’ve been working on criminal justice reform for almost a decade, and I’m often branded as pursuing a ‘radical’ agenda,’” Legend wrote. “People ask me whether the movement to end mass incarceration or elect progressive prosecutors is going too far. That accusation always strikes me as odd – that a future where all people are treated fairly and guaranteed their basic rights, where people are provided mental health or drug treatment instead of incarceration, is somehow extreme.”
Throughout the essay, titled “It’s Not Radical to Dream of a More Free America, or to Protect Our Basic Rights,” Legend pushed back on the question of “whether the movement to end mass incarceration or elect progressive prosecutors is going too far.” The singer and songwriter — who has previously spoken out about gun reform legislation and anti-Asian violence — suggested that the two movements actually haven’t gone far enough.
“Over the past few decades, we’ve seen the conservative right use the American criminal justice system to enforce draconian policies that hamstring people’s constitutional rights – and their efforts have escalated at a frightening pace in recent years,” Legend explained. “They wield tremendous power, and whoever holds the office will either advance oppressive policies or serve the interests of justice.”
Legend highlighted local prosecutors whose influence is rooted in enforcing laws and making policy decisions that directly relate to the crimes they will prosecute. On a hopeful note, he highlighted impactful policies enforced by progressive prosecutors that have positively influenced hate crime and rape prosecutions in addition to reconsidering the standards used for sentencing young people who commit crimes.
“It’s easy to feel hopeless about the state of our country when so many radical policies are becoming the norm,” Legend said. “But everyday Americans have a real opportunity to help change the system by electing reform-minded prosecutors who will create safer communities and a more just system.”
He adds: “It’s not radical to dream of a more free America. And it’s possible to protect our basic rights – to choose what to do with our bodies, to vote and protest, to protect our kids’ health – by choosing the right prosecutors to enforce our laws.”