This article originally appeared on Billboard.com
The movement is on behalf of the president’s request that Congress pass a criminal justice reform bill as soon as possible to, as Keys notes, “scale back overly harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.” The singer/activist is asking for 1 million signatures on a petition that she will then take directly to President Obama and Congress.
Here is the full text of Keys’ letter as it appears on Change.org:
Every night, nearly three million children go to bed with a parent behind bars.
We sell ourselves as the land of the free, but we have more people in prisons and jails than the whole Western world combined.
Is this our America?
On a recent trip to Baltimore, I saw firsthand how the prison system is destroying families. I spoke with an eight-year-old boy about his father, his hero, who “used to take him everywhere.” But now, his father is incarcerated. Sadly, his story is all too common across our nation: children are left to grow up without their heroes, who are also often their mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers.
As a parent myself, I’m asking you to help us fix this system.
Rather than treating drug addiction and mental illness with compassion and treatment, we punish and incarcerate mothers, fathers and children. Our prisons have become warehouses for the poor, addicted, and mentally ill. We have to change this.
President Obama has asked Congress to pass a bill as soon as possible. Both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have passed versions of a bipartisan bill that would scale back overly harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. But a version of this bill still needs to pass the full Senate and House, which means it needs your support.
Now is the time.
Let’s release people who have made dumb mistakes in their past into a more compassionate America. We should strive to live in a country where your worst deed no longer defines you.
We have a small small window of time to gather 1 million signatures. Once we do, I’m going to deliver the petition directly to the President and Congress, but I need your help.
It can end here and end with us. You can show the people of America that we are a caring society that believes in rehabilitation and equal justice for all.
Thank you for your time and your compassion,