The District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) welcomed nine-time Grammy® Award winner Mr. John Legend to its Achievement Center Friday afternoon to learn more about the agency’s mission of providing youth with opportunities to move beyond the juvenile justice system. It was Legend’s first stop in Washington, DC on his #FREEAMERICA tour focusing on ending mass incarceration.
DYRS Director Clinton Lacey spoke to a group of advocates during the meeting, “Our vision is in line with Mr. Legend’s. Acting with compassion, and engaging those under our care and in our most vulnerable communities by offering treatments and services actually proven to rehabilitate, support and strengthen our young people.”
“All around the country, I hear stories of children who look like me being labeled as criminals for doing the kinds of things that children do,” said John Legend during the briefing. “The fight for educational equality is deeply tied to the system of incarceration-- which all too often begins in our schools. Kids who act out in even minor ways, which once would result in a visit to the principal, now results in a trip with the cops and time in cages. That’s why we launched the #FREEAMERICA campaign.”
Afterwards, Mr. Legend joined some of the agency’s youth on a tour of the Achievement Center, listening to music they created in their sound studio. The Achievement Center is the agency’s central-hub for youth, where they receive services and gain skills needed to thrive in their communities, as well as participate in therapeutic programming.
“Free America is committed to the same ideals as we are – reducing racial disparities for boys and men of color and advancing achievement and opportunity to create pathways to the middle class for all District residents,” said Brenda Donald, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.
DYRS is the agency within the District of Columbia responsible for the supervision, custody, care and rehabilitation of young people involved in the deep end of the juvenile justice system. The agency is at the forefront of a national trend by providing positive, community-based services for court-involved youth.
John Legend recently launched #FREEAMERICA, a multi-year culture campaign to amplify the growing movement to end mass incarceration. As part of the #FREEAMERICA initiative, John Legend will lead a listening and learning tour across the country visiting with incarcerated individuals, law enforcement, legislators and experts regarding America’s prison problem.