John Legend and his campaign #FreeAmerica has released a new video telling the story of a woman who got a felony for stealing a sandwich. Like millions across this country, Jill Jenkins was arrested and thrown in prison for a minor offense.
Years after getting out of prison and completing drug treatment programs, Jenkins was haunted by the felony on her record. This prevented her from accessing services, and made it harder for her to find housing and employment. For many years her past defined her future, until last November when California voters approved Proposition 47.
“I believe in Proposition 47 because I believe we are not the sum of the worst thing we have ever done.” – John Legend
Prop. 47 is the most significant criminal justice reform in the past 30 years. It allows those with a felony conviction for certain low-level, non violent crimes to clean up their records. The revolutionary victory of Prop.47 is that it shifts resources away from incarceration and into communities and neighborhoods. The savings from reduced incarceration costs will be invested into drug and mental health treatment, programs for at-risk students in K-12 schools, and victim services.
Criminal justice advocates have put together a website that takes you step by step on how to expunge a felony from your record. Proposition 47 allows individuals to submit a petition to the local courthouse requesting a change to old criminal records. Visit myprop47.org to learn more.
John Legend is one more voice in a chorus of faith leaders, justice activists, community organizations, some law enforcement agencies, Democrats and Republican leaders who agree that the criminal justice system is broken. They agree that mass incarceration is not working and that investments need to be made in prevention and intervention.
However, the LA Times reported today that Prop. 47 implementation has been slow and that the counties need to “step up the pace” to ensure those coming out of prison are able to support their families and communities.
Tomorrow, November 4th community leaders, elected officials, and civil right groups will gather at Community Coalition in South Los Angeles to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of Prop.47. They share the stories of people like Jenkins whose lives have been changed and discuss a community agenda for public safety.
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