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Meek Mill reflects on the 5th anniversary of the prison sentence that changed his life

Digital Brief: May 9, 2023 (AM)
Digital Brief: May 9, 2023 (AM) 02:17

 (CNN) -- It's been five years since Meek Mill was released from prison after a sentence for a probation violation that sparked controversy and spurred the #FreeMeekMill movement.

Since then, the recording artist behind hits like "All Eyes on You" has dedicated his life to reforming laws around probation and parole, with the launch of the REFORM Alliance. Mill co-founded the group in 2018 with Jay-Z, Michael Rubin and Van Jones. They have since passed 16 bills in 10 states around probation and parole laws, according to the organization.

"Not committing a [violent] crime still led me to prison being locked in a small room 23 hours a day, being locked up with murderers and eating junk food, sleeping on concrete," Mill told CNN in a recent interview. "You know, that was a lot. I try to see past it and not to dwell on things like that, not bitter about it because it is my life and what brought me to who I am today."

Mill received a two-to-four-year prison sentence in 2017 for violating probation from a 2008 gun and drug case. The violation occurred when he was arrested after being involved in a fight and later for popping wheelies on a dirt bike. His sentence sparked calls for criminal justice reform from notable artists and athletes, including Colin Kapernick, Rick Ross, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and comedian Kevin Hart. Mill spent five months of his sentence incarcerated before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered his immediate release.

"A huge part of what we do is to tell the story of people impacted by the system," Robert Rooks, CEO of the REFORM Alliance said. "People like Meek and others who get sent back to jail or prison for not for committing a new crime but for staying out past curfew or for seeing a loved one outside the city, town or county -- those are just some of the reasons why we are telling the stories of everyday people who are currently trapped in our nation's probation and parole system."

Mill said his efforts to make a positive impact start close to home.

"One of my most memorable moments was recently buying my grandmother her first house and giving her a better way of living because she's the one that laid out opportunity for my whole family," he said. "And to be able to just set structure for my family and be able to help people, that's a new part of my life that I've really enjoyed."

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