open letter

John Legend Writes Open Letter Asking President Obama to Grant Clemency to As Many Nonviolent Drug Offenders As Possible

Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

President Obama has approximately 40 days before the end of his history-making presidency, and John Legend is hoping Obama wants to squeeze in a little more history-making before he goes. In an open letter published in Rolling Stone, the singer-songwriter asks POTUS to grant clemency to as many of the nation’s estimated 36,000 nonviolent federal drug offenders as possible before January 20. “While we hope the Trump administration and the 115th Congress will maintain this progress and continue to work in a bipartisan manner to reform our criminal justice system, it is unclear what their priorities will be and when families can expect justice,” Legend writes. “Before you leave office, I would like to add my voice to the more than 2 million Americans who have asked you to use your clemency and pardon powers to bring justice to the thousands of families of non-violent drug offenders who have waited far too long for Congress to act.”

As of November 30, President Obama had commuted the sentences of, or pardoned, 1,093 prisoners. His total is second only to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who granted clemency to 1,187 offenders. Legend, who recently discussed his own mother’s history of drug addiction and imprisonment in a voting spot, advocates that Obama “consider issuing categorical commutations” as a means of rectifying laws that penalize the use of certain forms of drugs more harshly. (He cites different laws regarding crack and powder cocaine as an example.) Concludes Legend: “Just as George W. Bush urged you to proactively address clemency on your way to your first inauguration in 2009, I am asking you to bring justice to thousands of families by granting as many clemencies as possible before you leave office.”

John Legend Pens Letter to Obama About Clemency