Hip-hop superstars Jay-Z and Meek Mill have teamed up with political commentator Van Jones in addition to a handful of professional sports team owners to launch a new initiative based on criminal justice reform. Announced at a press conference at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City on Wednesday, the newly-established Reform Alliance also includes New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, Third Point Management CEO Daniel Loeb, Galaxy Digital CEO Michael E. Novogratz, and Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert F. Smith. All the above-mentioned partners have put their wallets on the table with total group investment reaching $50 million in hopes of fixing America’s completely biased and flawed justice system.
The first part of the initiative will be to help the 4.5 million Americans around the country who are currently on parole or probation. The partnership will not use the money to bail anyone out, so to speak, but rather to help amplify the messages of more-established criminal justice reform groups who have spent decades working on the same initiatives. The Alliance hopes to use their popular influence and resources to dismantle any kind of existing laws which are keeping folks trapped in a revolving door system filled with arbitrary violations.
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“This problem is so much bigger than Meek,” Rubin stated during Wednesday’s announcement in relation to the Philadelphia-native rapper who last year spent what many believe to be unjust time behind due to a probation violation. “Fundamentally, our criminal justice system is broken and doesn’t work.”
“Every time I started fulfilling my life [within] the music industry, every year or two, there was always something that brought me back to ground zero because of probation,” Meek Mill noted. He also reflected on the trouble he’s had reintegrating himself back into society following brief incarcerations. “I always wondered what happened to the people in situations worse than mine. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Jay-Z has been widely outspoken about his hopes of helping to fix what many believe is a system meant to keep poverty-stricken communities (comprised mostly of African-American or Hispanic populations) from thriving. Back in 2016, Jay-Z narrated an incredibly moving and honest video detailing how the failure of the so-called “War on Drugs” was really a war on poor people, one that has resulted in an entire generation of young men and women being thrown behind bars—sometimes for life—over non-violent, drug-related offenses. Fans can watch the video below to hear more of Jay’s thoughts on the matter.
Jay Z – “The War on Drugs: From Prohibition to Gold Rush”
[Video: Drug Policy Alliance]