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Rapper Meek Mill and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin want to reform prisons

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Rapper Meek Mill.
Rapper
Meek Mill at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference on
Tuesday.

Business
Insider


  • Rapper Meek Mill and billionaire entrepreneur Michael
    Rubin explained how their friendship has transformed into a
    partnership to fight for criminal justice reform at Business
    Insider’s annual IGNITION
    conference
    on Tuesday. 
  • Mill was incarcerated again last year, against the
    recommendation of the prosecutor and his probation office, last
    year — prompting a movement to free him and a plan to launch a
    group that will push for systemic reform. 
  • The new organization hopes to move one million people out
    of prison and probation, and advocate for better prison
    rehabilitation programs and more just probation policies, bail
    systems, and sentencing laws.

Rapper Meek Mill and billionaire entrepreneur Michael Rubin
explained how their friendship has transformed into a partnership
to fight for criminal justice reform, during a discussion at
Business Insider’s annual IGNITION
conference
on Tuesday. 

After Mill was imprisoned again last year, the two men,
who’ve been friends for years, decided to launch a new organization, the details
of which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, that will push
to reform the laws that govern sentencing, probation, bail, and
other aspects of the criminal justice system.

“In my neighborhood, people die seven days a week,” Mill told
INSIDER Global Editor-in-Chief Nich Carlson of the North
Philadelphia community he was raised in
, adding that his
father was murdered when he was a kid, as were many of the
friends he grew up with. “Just stepping out of the house, you’re
stepping into a drug-infested environment.”

Mill was arrested in 2007 and served eight months in county
prison beginning in 2009, after which he was put on probation for
five years. Last year, Mill was sentenced to two to four years in
prison after being involved in a fight in an airport (Mill says
he was breaking up the altercation) and popping wheelies on
a dirt bike in New York City, both of which violated the strict
terms of his probation. While the two charges were dropped and
the prosecutor and probation officer recommended no prison time,
Mill ultimately served five more months in prison.  

The judge, who has handled Mill’s cases since 2007, even
denied the rapper bail, calling him a danger to public safety and
a flight risk. 

Mill and Rubin, who co-owns the Philadelphia NBA team the 76ers,
said the two used to argue over whether they were raised and live
in “two Americas.”

“I used to say, ‘you live in a great country, don’t give me that
BS,'” Rubin said, but explained that his eyes were opened to
racial bias in the justice system when his friend was sent to
prison again, even after the charges against him were
dropped. 

“Up until I saw this, I would have believed that 99.9% of arrests
were accurate, I would have believed that the legal system worked
the right way 99.9% of the scenarios,” Rubin added. “I saw a guy
who I knew was a great human being … and now I’m watching this
guy go to prison for two to four years because he popped a
wheelie and he broke up a fight?” 

Mill’s imprisonment prompted a movement to help free him led by
fellow rappers and a host of racial justice and reform advocates.
He was released last April. 

The multi-platinum hip-hop artist recently
wrote
an op-ed for The New York Times
in which he argued that the
criminal justice system was designed to subjugate people of
color, particularly black men, who are incarcerated much higher
rates and with more severe punishments than their white
counterparts. 

“The plantation and the prison are actually no different. The
past is the present,”
Mill says
in a video shot for Times piece. “It ain’t no
coincidence, this was the plan since abolition, to keep us
subjugated by creating this system.” 

The reform organization, which has six other co-founders, will
seek to move one million people out of prison and probation, and
advocate for better prison rehabilitation programs and more just
probation policies, bail systems, and sentencing laws.

“It’s fundamentally broken laws that don’t make sense that are
very old and antiquated,” Rubin said.

Mill hopes the taxpayer dollars saved through the reduction of
the prison population will be used for services and counseling to
help formerly incarcerated people become employed, reintegrate
into society, and receive mental healthcare. 

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