Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill has been a vocal advocate for probation reform ever since he spent 11 years on probation for gun and drug charges he faced when he was 19. Meek was sent back to prison in 2017 for technical violations such as riding a dirt bike and popping a wheelie. In 2018 he was released after a public outcry and a campaign by his celebrity friends and fans.
On Friday, Meek Mill witnessed the fruits of his activism as Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro signed SB838. A bill that aims to reform the state's probation and parole system. The bill, which was backed by Meek Mill's organization REFORM Alliance, limits the length of probation to five years for misdemeanors. And 10 years for felonies, and prevents people from being incarcerated for minor technical violations such as missing a meeting or failing a drug test.
Meek Mill, who attended the signing ceremony at the National Constitution Center. The rapper who is still promoting his collaboration album “ Too Good To Be True” with Rick Ross, broke into tears of joy as he hugged the governor and thanked him for making history. He said that the bill would help millions of people who are trapped in a cycle of incarceration and poverty due to excessive probation.
"This is a big step for me, for my city, for my culture, for my people, for the voiceless. This is something that will always be remembered in history. I thank everybody who ever supported me with this situation."- Meek Mill
Governor Shapiro praised Meek Mill for using his platform and influence to raise awareness and push for change. He said that the bill would make the criminal justice system more fair and humane, and save taxpayers money by reducing prison overcrowding.
"Probation should be a path to redemption, not a punishment for life. This bill will help people get back on their feet, contribute to society, and stay out of the system."- Governor Shapiro
The bill, which passed the state Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support in December, is expected to benefit about 200,000 people who are currently under community supervision in Pennsylvania. It also provides incentives for people to earn early termination of probation by completing education, work, or treatment programs.
REFORM Alliance, which was co-founded by Meek Mill and Jay-Z in 2019, has been working to change probation and parole laws in several states, including Virginia, Iowa, and Florida. The group says that more than 3.4 million adults are under community supervision in the US, and many of them face harsh consequences for minor infractions.
Meek Mill said that he hopes that his story and his advocacy will inspire others to fight for justice and freedom. He said that he will continue to work with REFORM Alliance and other allies to end the probation to prison pipeline.
"I'm not just doing this for myself. I'm doing this for the people who don't have a voice. I'm doing this for the future generations. I'm doing this for my son and my daughter. I'm doing this for change"- Meek Mill