Singer, songwriter and activist John Legend is committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline. Through his #FREEAMERICA movement, the “Get Lifted” musician has been pushing for citizens and law enforcement officials to unlock the potential of youth instead of pushing to lock them up.
And a newly-released report from Youth First is recognizing Mr. Legend for his efforts.
The national advocacy organization works to end youth incarceration. In their report, “Breaking Down the Walls: Lessons Learned From Successful State Campaigns to Close Youth Prisons,” the organization highlighted the achievements of youth, families and advocates working to change the focus of youth justice from incarceration to more effective forms of rehabilitation than young people.
“We started our work to end mass incarceration after years of working to improve the quality of K-12 education for the most disadvantaged,” said Legend in a press release. “We saw again and again that, far too often, kids who look like me and who come from poor and working class neighborhoods like my own, find that instead of getting a good education and a chance to go to college, they get prison. Instead of giving youth a real chance to turn their lives around after making a mistake, we escalate the problem by relying on the blunt tool of incarceration. Even more egregious is the fact that the United States is the only country on earth that sentences children to life in prison without parole.”
A poll released by Youth First found that the vast majority of Americans support keeping young people out of prison. Instead, 78 percent of the country’s citizens believe that community-based alternatives—that are proven to lead to better outcomes—should be invested in.
“Abusive, costly and ineffective youth prisons have been the signature feature of our juvenile justice system for far too long,” said Sheila Bedi, attorney and author of the report. “Over the years, undeniable evidence has shown that locking up our young people does more harm than good. Thanks to the work of dedicated youth, families and advocates around the country, both red states and blue states in every region of the country have rejected youth imprisonment in favor of youth justice systems that create safer streets while building upon the strengths of young people, their families and their communities.”
Click here for the full report.