“A Voice for the Voiceless: Meek Mill, Jay-Z and Others Launch REFORM Alliance”
By Victoria Jonas
Robert Williams was 19 when he was first arrested. Over a year later, he was convicted on seven charges relating to guns and drugs. Williams faced an 11-and-a-half to 23 months sentence in county prison, with seven years of probation. Less than six months later, he was released from jail and paroled to house arrest. When Williams’ house arrest ended, he still remained on probation.
In 2011, Williams received his first probation violation for testing positive for opiate use. Williams didn’t show to take an additional drug test in November 2012. Consequently, his permission to travel outside of Philadelphia County was suspended until after his next court date, two months later.
Yet, Williams violated his probation two more times by leaving the county. He was sentenced to three to six months in county jail, with five years of probation in July 2014. He served about five months in Hoffman Hall prison. The next year, Williams received his fourth violation for submitting a sample of water instead of urine for a drug test, leaving Philadelphia without permission and failing to report to his probation officer. He was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest, with six years of probation.
In September 2017, Williams violated his probation for the fifth time. The violations: travel restrictions, a failed drug test and reckless driving for popping wheelies on a dirt bike in Manhattan. He was also arrested for an altercation in a St. Louis airport. However, those charges were later dropped. In November 2017, Williams was sentenced to two to four years in prison for his 2008 drug and gun case violations.
This is Meek Mill’s story. He is no stranger to the criminal justice system. After a controversial case and widespread support, Mill was released from prison in April 2018. Following his release, Mill decided to use his voice for something other than hip-hop. He now advocates for the voiceless in the broken criminal justice system.
In late January, Mill joined forces with Jay-Z, three prominent sport team owners and others to launch REFORM Alliance at a press conference at John Jay College in New York. Mill, Jay-Z, 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai and more selected political commentator Van Jones as their CEO and pledged $50 million for the success of the initiative. The goal of the REFORM Alliance is to reconstruct the probation and parole system with hopes of freeing at least 1 million people stuck in the system within the next five years.
At the conference, REFORM Alliance leaders held a roundtable discussion on the issues of the criminal justice system. Jay-Z shared why he decided to join the movement.
“I’m from Marcy Projects, I’m from Brooklyn, and this has been a part of my life. This is the communities that we grow up in, friends that I have, people around me, so I have grown up with this issue. People way worse off than Meek,” Jay-Z said. “He has an opportunity, and he had to work hard. And we have to applaud him because every setback he came out stronger, and that takes a really dedicated person. I want to pride you for that.”
Mill’s case received a public platform. Yet, the case itself isn’t unique. There are millions of people facing similar situations without the necessary resources.
“I always wondered what happened to the people in situations worse than mine,” Mill said. “I’m one of the lucky ones. 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 gaps and make the world a better place, especially for my culture.”
Let us help you with your VISUALS and BRANDING TOOLS. 1.800.545.1592 JONES WORLDWIDE PUBLISHING
New Articles and Interviews
FEATURE MUSIC VIDEO
DBlac Ft. Kayne Prexise