On Friday, US singer John Legend wrote an open letter to the soon-to-be-departed president Barack Obama.
Rolling Stone published the piece which focuses on the prison sentences of non-violent drug offenders in federal prisons, and their need for justice, a cause Legend has taken up previously, as he watched his own mother land in prison after struggling with drug abuse.
Legend points to Obama’s unprecedented record on commuting sentences across his presidency.
Obama has commuted more sentences than any president in history, doing a small part to combat the problem of the massive prison population in the US.
But Legend asks Obama to press the gas on thousands more cases before he leaves office. In particular, he points at the sentencing difference between crack-rock and powdered cocaine–a rift repeatedly shown to be policy that unfairly targeted minorities and the poor. Legend writes:
”An estimated 36,000 non-violent drug offenders housed in federal prisons have sought relief under your clemency initiative and it is unclear how many of the remaining cases will be reviewed before you leave. As the Surgeon General noted, drug addiction is not a moral failing but a chronic health issue deserving of our compassion. What is a moral failing, however, is the War on Drugs and America’s addiction to incarceration which has not increased safety but needlessly torn families apart.”