“Each time we lock somebody up, it’s a failure in our group,” says John Legend, a famend singer-songwriter and lately a staunch advocate for prison justice reform.
“We failed to offer that individual sufficient alternative to stay, to earn money, to be wholesome, [and] to be protected,” he informed a webinar hosted by the College of Pennsylvania Carey Regulation College’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice.
Legend argued that policing in America aggravated the failures of the justice system by its disproportional remedy of individuals of shade.
Public security methods have too usually targeted on “holding everybody else protected from individuals who seem like us,” he mentioned. “I need our nationwide management to have that in thoughts once they’re making public coverage.”
Legend mentioned he supported requires “defunding police,” which he outlined as a shift in conventional funds priorities which have in any other case privileged security over rebuilding communities.
“I’m not saying we must always do away with police, however we must always deprioritize funding of police as at the moment constituted to be able to create the situations which would cut back the necessity for police,” he mentioned.
“It’s a matter of excited about investing extra money in doing issues that may make our communities happier, more healthy and safer.”
Tuesday’s webinar was the newest installment of the legislation faculty’s Reaching Racial Justice sequence.
Along with Legend, the webinar featured Yusef Salaam, a member of the Central Park Five, a bunch of 4 Black males and one Hispanic who had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for assaulting and raping a white lady in Central Park in 1989.
The dialog was moderated by John Hollway, govt director of the Quattrone Heart.
The panelists started by outlining a number of the many issues they are saying plague America’s justice system.
Salaam defined that the Founding Fathers’ perception that Black folks had been inferior was mirrored within the programs they created – the prison justice system amongst them.
“The identical system that was put in place is identical system that’s in place proper now, Salaam added.
Salaam cited the homogeneity of the lived experiences of lawmakers as one more concern going through the prison justice system.
He argued that as issues stand, “the folks making [criminal justice] insurance policies aren’t affected” by them.
As a substitute, “now we have to have folks which were run over by the spiked wheels of justice on the [decision-making] desk.”
Reflecting on the issues described above, Salaam and Legend envisioned future policing and justice programs which can be markedly totally different from their present kinds.
“We have to stay in a society the place we will’t be afraid of strolling whereas Black, driving whereas Black, and being Black,” Salaam mentioned.
Legend added that we needs to be “constructing wholesome communities the place all of us really feel protected, the place all of us have entry to meals, healthcare, [and] schooling,” amongst different fundamental requirements.
To make such visions a actuality, Legend mentioned that cities and communities ought to observe the lead of Minneapolis, Mn., and shift a number of the funds allotted for police to community-oriented companies.
The “defund the police” motion entered the limelight throughout last summer’s national reckoning with systemic racism, structural inequality, and police brutality.
Legend argued that municipal budgets aren’t solely statements of priorities however “ethical paperwork.”
“Each group wants to determine the right way to reallocate this cash spent on our behalf,” from punitive measures to enhancements in well being, schooling and housing, he mentioned.
“Morally, it’s the correct factor to do.”
Legend additionally praised progressive prosecutors like Kim Foxx of Chicago, Il., Larry Krasner of Philadelphia, Pa., and George Gascón of Los Angeles, Ca., and mentioned that voters ought to elect extra district attorneys like them.
Legend argued that electing progressive prosecutors is paramount as a result of they train large discretion with respect to the fees they file, the bail they set, and the sentences they search.
He added that Salaam’s life would have been a lot totally different “if the correct prosecutor was in place” – one which sought the reality relatively than a handy clarification for an unspeakable crime.
In the meantime, Salaam beneficial that prosecutors get to know the folks they’re charging.
He recalled how, a lot on the contrary, the prosecutors in his case falsely portrayed him and the opposite 4 members of the Central Park 5 as evil, wild, and animalistic.
It is crucial for prosecutors to see the total humanity of defendants as a result of “you are able to do something to a subhuman,” Salaam mentioned.
Legend agreed and added, “no individual needs to be outlined by the worst factor they’ve executed.”
Along with the reforms talked about above, Legend known as on prosecutors to conduct extra outreach within the communities they serve, go to the correctional amenities to which they ship folks, and accumulate and publicize information on who their places of work cost, convict, and sentence.
Accumulating information, particularly, will improve transparency, assist prosecutors detect racial biases of their selections, and battle the narrative that extra lenient prison justice insurance policies result in increased crime charges, argues Legend.
To conclude the webinar, Salaam expressed hope for a fairer justice system: “We who imagine in true freedom, justice, and equality know there’s a higher approach.”
Nonetheless, referring to the truth that there will likely be a brand new administration in a single week’s time, Salaam reminded the viewers that the battle for reform “isn’t just in regards to the subsequent 4 years, however it’s about lifetimes to return.”
A recording of Tuesday’s webinar may be accessed here.
Editor’s Be aware: For added info on reforms to the prison justice system, please see The Crime Report’s resource page on “Reforming the System.”
Michael Gelb is a TCR information intern. He welcomes feedback from readers.