In the clip, Legend recalls his upbringing in Ohio, which turned difficult after his mother, Phyllis, fell into a depression following the death of her own mother. Phyllis started using drugs and became estranged from the family, and on several occasions was arrested on drug-related charges.
Phyllis has since recovered and Legend says, “We both agree that when people are going through those kinds of issues, they really need help; they don’t need to be locked up. They need counseling. They need drug treatment.”
Legend notes how other countries like Portugal have decriminalized drugs and treat use as a public health issue, offering programs that help people break the cycle of abuse instead of locking them up. The singer calls for a similar system in the United States and points to the unflattering statistic that this country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, thanks in part to the war on drugs.
While Legend helps push for criminal justice reform through his group Free America, he notes at the end of the clip, “All those decisions to lock people up are being made in our name because we’re voters and we decide who’s in charge. We have to use that decision and make it wisely, and we have to exercise our right to vote … A lot of people protested and fought, bled and died so that everyone in this country, every citizen over the age of 18 would have the right to vote.”