What’s “Free” rapper Meek Mill is no stranger to being on the short end of the stick when it comes to the judicial system. The Philly native has been on probation his entire adult life due to a charge he caught when he was just a teenager. Meek recently caught a probation violation for wheeling a motor bike in the streets of New York.
Meek Mill, Jay-Z, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, and more have launched the Reform Alliance, a new initiative focused on overhauling the probation and parole system with the goal of freeing at least 1 million people caught up in the system within the next five years.
To reach that goal, they’ve pledged $50 million and hired political commentator and activist Van Jones as their CEO, Rubin announced at a press conference at John Jay College in New York City on Wednesday. (Third Point Management CEO Daniel Loeb, Galaxy Digital CEO Michael E. Novogratz, and Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert F. Smith fill out the rest of the founding board and investors.)
Meek shared that:
“Every time I started fulfilling my life [within] the music industry, every year or two, there was always something that brought me back to ground zero because of probation. I always wondered what happened to the people in situations worse than mine,” Mill said. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m here to speak for the ones who don’t have a voice. I didn’t ask to be the face of reform, but I want to bridge gaps and make the world a better place, especially for my culture.”
In order to even be able to attend this event, he later noted, he had to first get permission from his probation officer to travel to New York City, underscoring the lack of freedom he still faces daily.
Jay-Z saved his thoughts for the very end. He noted that, while the issue of a flawed, biased system may be news to some of his fellow founders, he’s experienced it all his life: “This is how we grew up. We’re all prisoners to this. Until everyone’s free, no one’s free.” He talked about how broken households lead to a feeling of distrust in authority that sets too many people up for failure later in life within the system.
“Your father’s gone so you’re like, ‘I hate my dad. Ain’t nobody tellin’ me what to do,’” he said. “Then you hit the street and run into a police officer and his first thing is ‘Freeze! Put your hands up! Shut up!’ You’re like — excuse my language — ‘Fuck you!’” The system, he added, is designed to then prey on that disadvantage. “That interaction causes people to lose lives. If someone commits a crime, they should go to jail. But these things are just disproportionate and the whole world knows it. A lot of these [laws] are in place now because elected officials run on them. I’m just saying the honest truth … It’s a humane issue.”