Rapper Meek Mill was freed on bail from a Pennsylvania prison more than a week ago, but says he continues to live in fear that one misstep could send him back behind bars.
"I'm still not a free man," the Philadelphia native said Thursday at his first news conference since his release. "I'm nervous everyday being on probation."
Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, lent his voice to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's call for criminal justice changes that would help not only him but others trapped in an endless cycle of incarceration.
Wolf — flanked by Mill and other lawmakers and supporters — urged the state House of Representatives to pass a slate of bills aimed at reducing lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent offenders and providing more assistance to those released to prevent recidivism. The state Senate has already passed such legislation.
"You're committed to helping us institute reforms to the system," Wolf said to Mill. "I am proud to call you a partner in this effort."
Mill, who turns 31 on Sunday, was first convicted in 2008 on drug and firearms charges. Despite serving eight months in prison, he was placed on a probation that has been extended several times.
Last year, Mill was arrested twice: once for popping a wheelie without a helmet on a motorcycle while shooting a music video in New York City, and then for an altercation at a Missouri airport. Both charges were dismissed, but he was still found in technical violation of his probation.
A judge in November sentenced him to two to four years in prison — provoking outrage from supporters, including politicians like Wolf and artists like Jay-Z, who used Mill's situation as a rallying cry for criminal justice reform.
In Mill's case, even the Philadelphia district attorney's office said he should have the initial charge vacated after the arresting officer landed on a list of law enforcement officials suspected of lying in court and framing witnesses over the years.
Mill was granted bail ahead of a hearing in June at which either the initial charges against him could be dropped or a new trial ordered.
Since leaving prison, the hip-hop chart-topper has attended a Philadelphia 76ers playoff game (via helicopter) and sat down with NBC News' Lester Holt for a "Dateline" special set to air on Sunday.
On Thursday, in front of flashing cameras and dressed in a white button-down shirt, Mill was out of his comfort zone.
"Excuse me if I'm a little nervous," he said.
He declined to discuss the details about his case, but said he watched in frustration as another high-profile incident in Philadelphia — the arrest in April of two black men who were sitting at a Starbucks — triggered his concerns about his own interactions with law enforcement.
"If that was me in Starbucks on probation, I would have actually been found in technical violation," he said.
Mill added that he was previously addicted to opioids, and was lucky to have a probation officer who, instead of having him thrown back into prison, helped to get him clean.
While Mill's future remains unclear, his journey will be featured in a six-part documentary series produced by Jay-Z and set to premiere next year on Amazon, the company announced Thursday.
There are "a lot of voiceless men and people I personally know, being in prison, sitting next to them every day, who are depending on me," Mill said. "And I feel like God has given me a great platform to help many others and make Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the world a better place."