In a press conference today, rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill announced they are teaming up with a number of professional sports team owners and other business leaders to start a new organization aimed at overhauling the U.S.’s probation and parole system.
In so doing, the group joins a growing movement to change the nation’s criminal legal system. Much of this movement is aimed at addressing the racial disparities embedded in the legal system. Additionally, the movement also carries potentially big implications for how the nation approaches drug laws.
Jay-Z and Meek Mill Announce the Reform Alliance
Today’s announcement came during a press conference held at the John Jay College in New York City. As explained during the event, Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, and Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai have joined forces to launch the Reform Alliance. Additionally, the organization also includes a number of other leading business executives as investors and board members.
The goal of the Reform Alliance is to push for change to the nation’s probation and parole system. Most immediately, the group’s first big goal is to get at least 1 million people off of probation and parole. They hope to accomplish this within five years.
To make it happen, the group has pledged $50 million for the cause. And to drive their initiatives forward, the group hired well known political analyst and activist Van Jones.
As reported by Vulture, the Reform Alliance will focus on working alongside other advocacy groups already addressing these issues.
“We’re not here to reinvent the wheel, but accelerate it,” Jones said. He further clarified that the Reform Alliance will work to “amplify” the efforts already being made to reform the criminal legal system.
Addressing Racial Disparity in Criminal Legal System
As explained by many of the group’s leaders, addressing racial issues is one of the driving factors behind the newly organized Reform Alliance.
As documented in a study published by Pew in September 2018, people of color are disproportionately impacted by probation and parole. For example, although black people represent roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 30 percent of those on probation or parole.
Additionally, according to that study, black people are 3.5 times more likely to be on probation or parole than white people.
Alongside these racial concerns, the probation and parole system also intersects with concerns over the war on drugs. Pew found that nonviolent drug crimes were the biggest offense leading to probation parole. As a result, reforms to probation and parole could also bring change to the nation’s drug laws.
Beyond all this, Meek Mill’s personal experience with the criminal legal system adds urgency to the Reform Alliance’s work. The rapper was recently forced to serve five months in prison for popping a wheelie on a dirt bike.
Although this is typically only a minor traffic infraction, it constituted a probation violation. As a result, Mill was sentenced to serve time in jail.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Meek Mill said today during the press conference. “I’m here to speak for the ones who don’t have a voice. I didn’t ask to be the face of reform, but I want to bridge the gaps and make the world a better place, especially for my culture.”