John Legend Praises Prop. 47, Despite New Crime Problems

AP Photo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

On Monday, Grammy-winning singer John Legend, praised California’s Proposition 47, which was passed last year by referendum and reduced some nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, letting some convicts serve shorter sentences or avoid jail time altogether.

Legend was speaking at a crime victims’ conference in Sacramento. According to the Sacramento Bee, he said: “Mass incarceration doesn’t make us safer. It actually makes us all more vulnerable” by breaking up families and communities. “That’s what we’ve failed to grapple with over the past 40 years, as we’ve criminalized more and more acts, and enacted harsher and harsher punishments.”

The conference was organized by Californians for Safety and Justice, the same group that organized the Proposition 47 campaign, according to the Bee. Legend admitted that he donated to Proposition 47’s campaign in 2014 and joined phone banks that backed the proposition. He also admitted that he did not know the details of legislation that would roll back Proposition 47.

One proposal to modify Proposition 47 would allow police to obtain the genetic information of suspects arrested for felonies. After Proposition 47 passed, the Department of justice admitted that its ban on police obtaining DNA had diminished the rate of DNA collection by 10 to 20 percent, the Bee reported. That has made it more difficult for the state to solve crimes in which inmates may have played a role.

In January, The Fresno Bee reported statements by Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer that in the first ten months of 2014, auto theft was down 26%, but after November, when Proposition 47 was passed, auto theft was up 7.8%, and rose by 9.8% in December 9.8%. He added that burglaries showed the same tendency to increase. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said property crime started spiking after Prop. 47 passed.

In Pasadena, the number of crimes in November totaled 336. But in December, that number rose to 383, and in January 2015, it was registered at 379.

After addressing the conference, Legend spoke to reporters, saying he opposed attempts to amend Proposition 47. He intoned, “The people have spoken and the people have chosen fairness and justice.”