John Legend launches campaign to end mass incarceration in Austin

Singer songwriter John Legend was in Travis County Thursday to point out that too many people are jailed for lesser crimes. He spoke with lawmakers at the State Capitol.

About 720,000 adults are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole in Texas, that's according to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

Several state legislators joined the 9-time Grammy winner as he kicked off his national campaign to end mass incarceration.

Earlier in the day Legend visited the Travis County Correctional Complex to talk and perform for inmates.

He wants to update penalties for crimes like an invalid driver's license and marijuana and raise the age for juveniles facing court from seventeen to eighteen, and he wants to de-criminalize truancy.

That decades old law slaps kids with a misdemeanor, a hefty fine, and possible jail time.

"We need to focus on our schools and our communities to have the most support they need and the parents do as well when it comes to the criminal justice system we need to decide as a nation as a culture that prison is not the solution to every problem. People have problems with drugs, mental health, people have problems with all kinds of things and if the only solution we can come up with is to lock them up that is not smart, it is not compassionate, it is not just," Legend said.

Just yesterday Houston State Senator John Whitmire's bill to end truancy was voted through the Senate.

On the House side, Houston State Representative Harold Dutton's bill was given the greenlight for a full House vote.

"We are going to see if we can change truancy to see if we can make it more effective to get kids in school rather than punish kids and send them to jail," Dutton said.

After Thursday's launch, Legend met with legislators and advocates in a closed door meeting about how to improve on Texas' justice system.



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