Propper Daley

Case Study


John Legend


Changing the national conversation about mass incarceration

Project Type

Signature Impact Initiative

Impact Area

Racial Justice

Client Type


Client Need

There are more than two million people in our prisons and jails across the country. Rigid policies that unduly impact people of  color, prioritize punishment over rehabilitation, and funnel resources into incarceration, rather  than communities, creating a national crisis. Profoundly negative perceptions of the  formerly incarcerated have led to widespread dehumanization, leaving millions without a  second chance. John Legend recognized the challenge posed by our mass incarceration  epidemic and was eager to develop a long-term strategy to turn the tide, engaging Propper Daley to build his philanthropic approach, activations and corresponding narrative/creative work.

Our Approach

Propper Daley’s work began with with a year-long listening and learning tour that took John into detention centers,  jails, prisons, and communities to meet with the currently and formerly incarcerated, their  families, law enforcement, district attorneys, victims and advocates to understand the  challenges facing individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. Out of this, Propper Daley worked with John to develop FREEAMERICA, a comprehensive, multi-year culture and systems  change campaign built on three pillars: policy change, education and storytelling and  innovation projects. By leveraging John’s influence and assets for the highest impact, FREEAMERICA gained credibility among the formerly incarcerated community,  developed robust partnerships, identified policy targets, and created meaningful programs, while shifting the national conversation around incarceration.

I sought out Propper Daley almost a decade ago when I was looking to focus and deepen my philanthropic work, and we’ve been collaborating ever since. Together, we created FREEAMERICA, an award-winning initiative to end mass incarceration that has catalyzed local, statewide, and national reforms. Propper Daley has the trusting relationships with grassroots activists, organizers, and thought leaders to help me navigate the difficult work of making change in an area that can be fraught and controversial. They uniquely understand how to make the world better by working for lasting, meaningful change.  Propper Daley’s innovative and creative team is excellent, and I trust them implicitly to guide me on my impact journey.

John Legend
Singer, songwriter, and producer


This field-informed and strategic approach redefined what a celebrity-led campaign can achieve, measured in lives affected and policies changed.

Created #MyPotential, an award-winning storytelling project that highlights individuals affected by America’s criminal justice system. The campaign garnered more than 10 million views and engaged influencers like Juanes, Common and Senator Cory Booker;

Launched an accelerator, Unlocked Futures, which provides grants, mentoring, and technical assistance to entrepreneurs impacted by incarceration who are working to break down barriers to opportunity in America;

Created and launched #FREETHEVOTE, a get-out-the-vote campaign that encouraged the formerly incarcerated to learn about their voting rights ahead of the 2016 general election.

Helped secure behind-the-scenes policy victories, including a dialogue that led to a criminal justice reform package in Louisiana. One year later as a result of these reforms, Louisiana is officially out of the #1 spot in the world with the highest incarceration rate.

In partnership with the ACLU, developed an animated video series called #MeetYourDA that was used in 13 target states, narrated by John about the role of District Attorneys in the criminal justice system, encouraging the public to become informed voters; rallied major influencers like Dax Shepard, Tyra Banks, Olivia Munn, Andy Cohen, and Maria Menounos to offer support on their social media channels.

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