- Rapper Meek Mill and billionaire entrepreneur Michael Rubin explained how their friendship has transformed into a partnership to fight for criminal justice reform at Business Insider’s annual IGNITION conference on Tuesday.
- Mill was incarcerated again last year, against the recommendation of the prosecutor and his probation office, last year – prompting a movement to free him and a plan to launch a group that will push for systemic reform.
- The new organisation hopes to move one million people out of prison and probation, and advocate for better prison rehabilitation programs and more just probation policies, bail systems, and sentencing laws.
Rapper Meek Mill and billionaire entrepreneur Michael Rubin explained how their friendship has transformed into a partnership to fight for criminal justice reform, during a discussion at Business Insider’s annual IGNITION conference on Tuesday.
After Mill was imprisoned again last year, the two men, who’ve been friends for years, decided to launch a new organisation, the details of which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, that will push to reform the laws that govern sentencing, probation, bail, and other aspects of the criminal justice system.
“In my neighbourhood, people die seven days a week,” Mill told INSIDER Global Editor-in-Chief Nich Carlson of the North Philadelphia community he was raised in, adding that his father was murdered when he was a kid, as were many of the friends he grew up with. “Just stepping out of the house, you’re stepping into a drug-infested environment.”
Mill was arrested in 2007 and served eight months in county prison beginning in 2009, after which he was put on probation for five years. Last year, Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison after being involved in a fight in an airport (Mill says he was breaking up the altercation) and popping wheelies on a dirt bike in New York City, both of which violated the strict terms of his probation. While the two charges were dropped and the prosecutor and probation officer recommended no prison time, Mill ultimately served five more months in prison.
The judge, who has handled Mill’s cases since 2007, even denied the rapper bail, calling him a danger to public safety and a flight risk.
Mill and Rubin, who co-owns the Philadelphia NBA team the 76ers, said the two used to argue over whether they were raised and live in “two Americas.”
“I used to say, ‘you live in a great country, don’t give me that BS,'” Rubin said, but explained that his eyes were opened to racial bias in the justice system when his friend was sent to prison again, even after the charges against him were dropped.
“Up until I saw this, I would have believed that 99.9% of arrests were accurate, I would have believed that the legal system worked the right way 99.9% of the scenarios,” Rubin added. “I saw a guy who I knew was a great human being … and now I’m watching this guy go to prison for two to four years because he popped a wheelie and he broke up a fight?”
Mill’s imprisonment prompted a movement to help free him led by fellow rappers and a host of racial justice and reform advocates. He was released last April.
The multi-platinum hip-hop artist recently wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which he argued that the criminal justice system was designed to subjugate people of colour, particularly black men, who are incarcerated much higher rates and with more severe punishments than their white counterparts.
“The plantation and the prison are actually no different. The past is the present,” Mill says in a video shot for Times piece. “It ain’t no coincidence, this was the plan since abolition, to keep us subjugated by creating this system.”
The reform organisation, which has six other co-founders, will seek to move one million people out of prison and probation, and advocate for better prison rehabilitation programs and more just probation policies, bail systems, and sentencing laws.
“It’s fundamentally broken laws that don’t make sense that are very old and antiquated,” Rubin said.
Mill hopes the taxpayer dollars saved through the reduction of the prison population will be used for services and counseling to help formerly incarcerated people become employed, reintegrate into society, and receive mental healthcare.
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