Meek Mill, a rapper turned criminal justice reform activist, penned an op-ed published in the New York Times Monday demanding for prison and sentence reform. In an accompanying video, the rapper, dressed in a black suit and tie, stands against a backdrop of the criminal justice system as it applies to black people, and with bold statements such as, “you have the right to be silenced,” perhaps a more accurate reading of our Miranda rights.
The picture Mill paints in both the video and op-ed is a bleak one, writing: “The system causes a vicious cycle, feeding upon itself — sons and daughters grow up with their parents in and out of prison, and then become far more likely to become tied up in the arrest-jail-probation cycle.”
Mill has been trying to overcome a drug dealing charge that has haunted him since 2007, claiming a miscarriage of justice — he’s been on probation ever since — and a lack of accountability in our legal system. A judge has been nabbing him since then and acting out what many fear is a personal vendetta against the rapper.
Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, has embraced becoming the near perfect spokesperson for criminal justice reform with grace. In recent months, his call for reform and the need to shine the light past him to those less fortunate and famous has gotten louder.
In the op-ed he announces a foundation he is launching that will be “dedicated to achieving real change.” Mill is asking for more effective prison rehabilitation programs, updated probation policies, and an improved bail system — all things he, and countless others, could have benefited from. Improved probationary systems, especially.
The rapper details how and why a person should be able to have their probation reduced. Since his release originally in 2009, he has essentially been on probation which has hindered his career and his ability to move on from the crime altogether. He most recently came under fire for traveling outside of his court ordered region for rehab and a work related trip — both productive events. He was also sent back to prison for a reckless driving charge (popping a wheelie) and an airport fight (that he didn’t start) despite charges being dropped in both instances. Since he was on probation at that time, the gravity of these offenses were that much greater.
The conversation Mill is aiming to ignite is around how unproductive our current probation system tends to be. Scores of people find themselves in what is being dubbed as the revolving door: after they commit a crime and do the time they remain held up for months or years because of strict hard to follow standards placed on them via the conditions of their probation.
“I send my prayers to all those who are still in the web of the system: Please know you are not forgotten,” he writes.