In a series of tweets Saturday, Legend suggested that Americans have become “desensitized” to the U.S. prison system, which is where their outrage over Huffman’s sentencing stems from.
The 10-time Grammy Award winner offered a solution that doesn’t pit the rich against the poor: Stop sending people to jail.
“I get why everyone gets mad when rich person X gets a short sentence and poor person of color Y gets a long one,” he said Saturday. “The answer isn’t for X to get more; it’s for both of them to get less (or even none!!!) We should level down not up. ”
Many were outraged over what they saw as a light sentence for Huffman, which pales in contrast to other people of color who are poor and received harsher punishments for lesser crimes.
Huffman, 56, is the first parent to be sentenced in a nationwide college admissions scam involving wealthy parents paying large sums to help get their sons or daughters into prestigious schools.
The “Desperate Housewives” actor pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud for paying $15,000 to raise her daughter’s SAT score. A federal judge sentenced Huffman to 14 days in prison, with a supervised release for one year and 250 hours of community service. She also has to pay a fine of $30,000. Prosecutors suggested Huffman serve one month in prison.
Huffman’s sentencing drew comparisons to cases involving a Texas woman who is facing up to five years in prison for casting a vote and a homeless woman who served five years for sending her son to a public school in a district they didn’t live in.
In 2016, Crystal Mason voted using a provisional ballot in Texas while she was on supervised release for a federal felony. She said she didn’t know she was ineligible to vote and while her ballot was rejected, a district attorney still pressed charges against her. Tanya McDowell, a homeless woman, was sentenced to five years in prison after she sent her son to a public school in a district they didn’t live in.
Legend said Mason and McDowell’s cases were shameful and “unconscionable,” and said that they shouldn’t have been imprisoned at all.
“Prisons and jails are not the answer to every bad thing everyone does, but we’ve come to use them to address nearly every societal ill,” the singer tweeted.
While people were angered that Huffman’s sentencing wasn’t longer, Legend believes she shouldn’t have received any time at all.
He concluded: “No one in our nation will benefit for cheating in college admissions. We don’t need to lock people up for any of this stuff.”
Legend has used his celebrity status to advocate for criminal justice reform. Last week, he attended an “NBC Nightly News” town hall event filmed at New York’s Sing Sing prison to talk about mass incarceration and the toll of life behind bars with inmates.
President Donald Trump was offended that his administration’s criminal justice reform efforts were not specifically mentioned during the event, and called Legend an “old boring musician.”