Singer John Legend got behind the microphone at the Sacramento Convention Center on Monday, not to perform, but to advocate for social change.
“I don’t want to live in a nation that criminalizes addiction and poverty,” Legend said.
He’s using his voice to call for less punishment for crime and more crime prevention. He addressed the audience at “Survivors Speak”, a conference that served as a forum for people like James Anderson.
“By the time I was 17 years old, I was facing 35 to life,” Anderson, now a member of Anti-Recidivism Coalition, said.
Raised in a broken home, by his teenage years, Anderson was a drug user and a gang member.
“Society had said ‘you committed something wrong, you deserve to be in jail the rest of your life,'” he said.
It wasn’t until someone took the time to guide him and told him he was better than his past that things turned around.
“Last Friday I was accepted to UCLA,” Anderson told the audience.
“The school to prison pipeline,” Legend said. “What a nasty name, but it’s true.”
Legend spoke about the need to invest in education and a system that gives kids opportunities, instead of turning them over to the police.
“I think what’s really problematic is the policies that we’ve pursued over the past 40 years that have ratcheted up our incarceration rate to astronomical levels,” Legend said.
Victims and survivors of crime like Sonya Shah agreed.
“When I was a child I was sexually abused by a caretaker and in my early 20s I was raped,” Shah said.
She wanted her attackers to pay for what they did but also to receive treatment so they never did it again.
“We want to see healing, we want to see more recovery, we want to see more rehabilitation,” Shah said.