In an editorial in the New York Times, rapper Meek Mill raised the flag for criminal justice reform and announced the launch of a new foundation to support that cause. “Like many who are currently incarcerated, I was the victim of a miscarriage of justice — carried out by an untruthful officer, as determined by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, and an unfair judge,” Mill wrote.
“My crime? Popping a wheelie on a motorcycle in Manhattan. Even though the charge was dismissed in a New York City court, a Philadelphia-based judge still deemed my interaction with the police to be a technical violation of my probation — stemming from a 2007 arrest — and sentenced me to two to four years in prison despite the fact that I didn’t commit a crime. The judge also refused my motion for bail, calling me a “danger to the community” and a “flight risk,”” he added.
Mill is no stranger to the criminal justice system and was released in April after serving five months on the probation violation. He previously served time for drug and weapon charges, stemming from an arrest in 2007. However, since then, his conviction came under scrutiny due after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office filed a response to Meek’s petitions for dismissal, noting that “there is a strong showing of likelihood of the Petitioner’s conviction being reversed (in whole or in part).”
The D.A. went on to cite testimony from an officer whose prior testimony against corrupt Philadelphia police officers had resulted in the reversal of hundreds of convictions.
The United States is a world leader in incarceration, with approximately 2.2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails, according to data collated by the Sentencing Project.
As well, there are deep racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes, and while people of color currently make up about 37% of the population of the U.S., they account 67% of the prison population.
As the Sentencing Project notes, African-Americans are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be convicted, and receive longer sentences. Black men, in particular, bear the brunt this injustice and are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men, and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men.
Mill echoed these stark facts in his op-ed, stating: “But I know I’m the exception to the rule — a lucky one. It’s clearer than ever that a disproportionate number of men and women of color are treated unfairly by a broken criminal justice system. 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. This is bad for families and our society as a whole.”
Mill revealed plans to launch a foundation dedicated to achieving criminal justice reform.
“Soon, some friends and I will be announcing a foundation dedicated to achieving real change. In the meantime, if you’re interested in joining us and lending your support to solving what is the moral crisis of our time, please visit www.reformnow.com and sign up.”