BLACK VOICES
11/26/2018 04:51 pm ET

Meek Mill Demands Improved Prisoner Rights In Emotional Op-Ed

The rapper, who was released from prison earlier this year on controversial charges, urged for prison reform.

Meek Mill called for an overhaul of the criminal justice system in a powerful New York Times essay published on Monday. 

“The criminal justice system has a set of rights created to protect you. But do you think it’s really protecting us?” the rapper asked in a video accompanying the op-ed. 

Mill, also known as Robert Rihmeek Williams, used his own troubling experience with the criminal justice system as the best example of bias in the country’s prison system. 

“Like many who are currently incarcerated, I was the victim of a miscarriage of justice ― carried out by an untruthful officer, as determined by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, and an unfair judge,” the Philadelphia-based rapper wrote. 

“My crime? Popping a wheelie on a motorcycle in Manhattan. ... The ordeal cost me my most precious commodity: my freedom. I served five months,” he continued. 

Last year, the rapper was sentenced to two to four years in prison stemming from two earlier arrests in 2017. One arrest related to a fight and the other was reportedly for popping wheelies on a dirt bike. Based on those two charges and a failed drug test, Judge Genece Brinkley found Williams in violation of probation from a 2007 gun and drug case. In a controversial decision, Brinkley denied Mill bail and sent him to prison. In April, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled Brinkley and Mill was freed. 

“It’s clearer than ever that a disproportionate number of men and women of color are treated unfairly by a broken criminal justice system,” Mill wrote. “The system causes a vicious cycle, feeding upon itself ― sons and daughters grow up with their parents in and out of prison, and then become far more likely to become tied up in the arrest-jail-probation cycle. This is bad for families and our society as a whole.”

It’s clearer than ever that a disproportionate number of men and women of color are treated unfairly by a broken criminal justice system. Meek Mill

He added that the system has been designed to fail men and women of color. 

“The reality is African-Americans and Latinos who come from poverty-stricken neighborhoods are assigned public defenders too overburdened to do anything in most cases other than negotiate the most favorable plea deal, regardless of guilt or innocence,” Mill wrote.

Mill noted that he is working to start a foundation that will create better prison rehabilitation programs, updated probation policies and an improved bail system. 

“It’s a shame that model probationers can be immediately put back behind bars simply for missing curfew, testing positive for marijuana, failing to pay fines on time or, in some cases, not following protocol when changing addresses,” he wrote. “Our lawmakers can and should do away with these ‘technical violations.’”

Toward the end of his video, Mill likens prisons to plantations adding “it ain’t no coincidence.” 

“This was the plan since abolition, to keep us subjugated by creating this system,” he said. “But I believe in a different set of rights. The right to stand up and be heard. The right to reform a broken justice system and build a new future. We had the right to be silent; now it’s our right to speak up.”

Head to The New York Times to read Meek’s full op-ed. 

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