Sports, entertainment and business leaders announced the launch of an organization aimed at reforming the United States’ criminal justice system.
Meek Mill and Jay-Z are among the group of leaders who pledged approximately $50 million to create the Reform Alliance. Its mission is to drastically reduce the number of people living under unjust parole and probation sentences, “while keeping communities safe by changing laws and public opinion.”
Other founding partners include Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin; Kraft CEO and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai; Vista Equity Partners founder Robert F. Smith; Galaxy Digital founder Michael E. Novogratz; and Third Point LLC founder Daniel S. Loeb. CNN host and activist Van Jones will serve as CEO.
In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Mill said he hopes the Reform Alliance will shed light on the issues within the criminal justice system.
“This is not us going against the system, this is us trying to fix the system,” the rapper said. “These problems affect America, they affect families, they affect taxpayers. ... I hope we bring real change to help fix the problem.”
Mill, who was born Robert Rihmeek Williams, gained national attention after he was sentenced in November 2017 to two to four years in prison for a probation violation stemming from a 2008 conviction on drug and firearm charges. Celebrity support from the likes of Jay-Z, Kevin Hart and Colin Kaepernick helped make the hashtag #FreeMeekMill trend on social media for several weeks.
Holt first spoke with Mill over the phone last April when he was behind bars.
"I wouldn't have believed that I would be on probation this long,” Mill said then. “They gave me 10 years of probation and I know, almost for sure in my mind, this will bring me back to prison."
Only two weeks later, Mill was released on bail following an order from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Hours after his release, the rapper sat down with Holt for his first in-depth interview.
“This is the same thing that thousands of minorities are going through on a daily basis,” he told Holt. “They just don’t have the platform to have anybody speak on their behalf. Now they do. At this point, I feel like I’m the sacrifice for a better cause.
“Let's retire the FreeMeekMill hashtag and make it #JusticeReform. I want every public politician to know, from Republicans to Democrats, this is the most popular thing to be behind.”
In line with his new mission, Mill brought the case of Eric Riddick to the attention of NBC News. Riddick, whom Mill met in prison, says he has spent more than two decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
Now, with the Reform Alliance, Mill hopes to continue to do the same for others on a larger scale, and fight for the people who don’t have a voice.
“Even though I didn't commit the crime that I'm initially on probation for, even though I've been sent to prison four times, we don't have any time to feel sorry for me anymore,” he said. “My situation was a spark. And we’re doing what we need to do to make change. Reform should be the way we speak for all, no matter the color, no matter where you come from, or who you are.”