American rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill are trying to reform the criminal justice system by joining hands with sports and business leaders.
CNN reported that the pair were present at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to announce the formation of the REFORM Alliance, an organization that aims to reduce the number of people serving unjust parole and probation sentences. According to statistics provided by NAACP, “in 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.” With many African American males making up the incarcerated population the REFORM Alliance could do lots to change the makeup of the African American community.
The group has pledged $50 million to launch the organization and hired CNN political commentator Van Jones as CEO. Jones said in a statement that the job “is the opportunity of a lifetime.” According to Vulture, “the Reform Alliance, is an 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.”
Both Jay-Z and Mill have been outspoken in their advocacy for criminal justice reform.
In 2017, Mill received a 2- to 4-year prison sentence for violating probation on a 2008 gun and drug case. He was arrested in 2017 after being involved in a fight and then again in another incident that involved him popping wheelies on a dirt bike.
The #FreeMeekMill movement resulted in his release after five months in prison and shone a light on what critics said was the excessive nature of the rapper’s original sentence of a decade on probation.
Meek Mill on prison reform: ‘We are trapped inside of a system’. Since then, Mill has taken up the fight to make sure others don’t receive a similarly harsh sentence.
“I got caught up in the system and every time I started to further my life with the music industry … every year or two it was something that brought me back to ground zero, and it was probation,” Mill said during Wednesday’s press conference to announce the alliance.
Jay-Z was one of several celebs who rallied behind Mill while he was jailed. In November, Jay-Z wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times in which he took up the fight for justice for Mill and said the criminal justice system “stalks black people.”
On Wednesday he said the pair had grown up in an environment where they witnessed the inequality of such a system when it comes to people of color. “We want to be very clear, if someone commits a crime they should go to jail,” Jay-Z said. “But these things are just disproportionate and the whole world knows it.”