Rapper Meek Mill said his time under probation almost kept him "from having a fair shot at life that the average young Black man should have." Now, with the nonprofit organization Reform Alliance, which he co-chairs, the singer said he wants "to help and make a change" for others in similar situations.
"I was a lucky one to escape it, but many others like me were unable to escape," Meek Mill, whose legal name is Robert Williams, told "CBS Mornings" on Thursday.
In 2008, Meek Mill wasfor a gun charge and in 2017, he was accused of assault. A judge handed down the sentence that he serve five months in prison for a probation violation and the next year, he was granted bail and a re-trial on the 2008 conviction. Meek Mill ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and all other charges were dropped.
In 2019 following his experience, Meek Mill teamed up with Philadelphia 76ers partner Michael Rubin and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.
"We have to fix the underlying system," Rubin, who is also co-chair of the nonprofit, told "CBS Mornings" on Thursday. "We can't fix this one at a time. It's a systemic issue. There are millions of people today on probation that shouldn't be on probation."
According to a study from the research and advocacy group Human Rights Watch, there were an estimated 4.5 million people across the country under parole or on probation in 2020.
Meek Mill said there are simple violations that can send people in these circumstances to prison, like smoking marijuana, not contacting a probation officer in a certain manner, not being hired for a job or not completing school.
"I used to get voicemails," Meek Mill recalled. "'Can I pick my kid up from school?' She said, 'No, if you pick your kid up, I will send you to prison.'"
Rubin said the Reform Alliance has set a goal of getting at least 1 million people who are on probation or under parole "that shouldn't be" out of the system. He noted that some people "do belong in prison" rightfully and that the group does not focus on removing these people, but does provide them resources.
So far the organization has helped to pass 16 bills related to the issue across 10 states, Rubin said. Recently, a law that the organization fought for took effect in Florida that allows people to shorten their probation term by getting credits earned by going to school or working at least 30 hours a week.
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