Getting Smart on Crime with John Legend

john legend


Goodwill, along with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC), welcomed award-winning artist John Legend to Austin on April 16. Mr. Legend initiated FREE AMERICA, a multi-year campaign to amplify the growing movement to end mass incarceration. FREE AMERICA is embarking on a listening and learning tour across the country, visiting with incarcerated individuals, law enforcement, legislators, and experts who have been thinking critically about America’s prison problem.

Austin, Texas, was the campaign’s first official stop, where John Legend visited and performed at the Travis County Correctional Complex and met with several state representatives. “Texas has been a leader and I am here working alongside legislators and advocates who believe that every Texan deserves a better justice system.” By collaborating at local and national levels, Goodwill, TCJC, John Legend and other allies are building momentum in the shift from a “tough on crime” culture to one that is “smart on crime”.  Mr. Legend added, “They say everything is bigger in Texas; unfortunately, so are your prisons and jails. I don’t believe that is because there are more criminals in Texas. Texans deserve a better justice system.”
Artist John Legend speaks in support of FREE AMERICA in Austin

Artist John Legend speaks in support of FREE AMERICA in Austin.

Ending the Vicious Cycles of Incarceration and Poverty

In addition to being an advocate of FREE AMERICA, last September Goodwill became part of a broad-based and diverse coalition of groups that came together to support criminal justice reforms: Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition (TSCC).

TSCC will make the system more just, and at the same time, improve public safety for all Texans. The Coalition is an advocate for reforms that will provide punishment that actually fits the crime, protection for the innocent and a path to redemption for those convicted of non-violent crimes so they can get back to work and be productive members of society.

“We have tried locking people up and throwing away the key, and that isn’t always the best answer,” said Texas Association of Business CEO Bill Hammond. “For people convicted of non-violent crime, one answer is making a path for them to return to productive society, whether that means rehabilitation programs, education or job training.”

“There are too many Texans in prison,” said ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke. “Incarcerating non-violent offenders and people with mental illness destroys lives and wastes taxpayer money without making us safer. As this coalition shows, everyone has an interest in making our criminal justice system smarter.”

Traci Berry, Senior Vice President with Goodwill of Central Texas added: “Goodwill Central Texas is proud to be a member of the Smart-on-Crime Coalition. We are committed to working with these other strong partners to remove barriers for people with criminal backgrounds and to meet the employment and training needs of Texas businesses. Linking them together strengthens individuals, families, and Texas communities.”

Traci continues, “Goodwill Central Texas (GCT) believes in the power of work. As the expert in work for almost six decades, GCT has learned what studies have echoed: employment, education, and housing are leading indicators of long-term success for people with criminal backgrounds. More than 65% of people we serve have criminal backgrounds, most from disadvantaged backgrounds. Now is the time to implement real reform that strikes at the heart of the criminal justice system – working to end the school-prison pipeline’ creating opportunities for individuals and families to thrive, while strengthening our economy and community.”

The opportunity to work. The opportunity for dignity. The opportunity to take care of a family. Goodwill Central Texas is committed to creating a safe, stable, and thriving Texas through the power of work – and the time for real justice is now.


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