Rapper Meek Mill entered the national spotlight after he was sent back to prison for violating his parole, triggering a wave of calls to reform the criminal justice system. Now he has decided to use his experiences as a way to make changes to the prison system.
“Our aim is not trying to free this specific person like me,” Mill told Yahoo Finance’s Julie Hyman (video above). “It started off being me. That goal wasn’t just to free me. I was just like the lamb for the platform to open these gates up and try to free as many people as we can. Our goal is a million people, but if that can help A$AP Rocky immediately — yeah, of course.”
(A$AP Rocky is a rapper who is currently being held in Sweden for assault charges.)
Mill spoke about his upcoming documentary and his work with REFORM Alliance, an initiative with the goal “to dramatically reduce the number of people who are unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system — starting with probation and parole.” Other well-known figures involved with the organization include Jay-Z, Robert Kraft, Van Jones, Michael Novogratz, Clara Tsai, and Michael Rubin.
“We all came together as one team … trying to come up with something that’s never been done before and really make positive change,” Mill said. “You have people in your corner and never give up. Don’t be a victim. Make it work for yourself. That’s what I did. I didn’t be a victim of it. I made it work for me, and I’m doing reform today and taking time out of my day to always work on something where I give back to the cause.”
‘We’re more into using power to the fullest extent’
Mill sees similarities between his legal issues and Rocky’s and hopes that his work can make a difference.
“We’re more into using power to the fullest extent and trying to change laws, and trying to really make great change like me,” he said. “If that could help A$AP Rocky come home, that’s the greatest thing in the world.”
Mill is currently seeking a new trial to end decade-long probation after being convicted in 2008 for drug, firearms, and assault charges. In April 2017, Mill finished serving five months in prison related to probation infractions until receiving bail — but not before his case garnered the attention of celebrities and criminal justice reform advocates alike.
“I just wanted to tell my story so people get a bird’s eye view on what really took place because I was living through like a media where you lived through just a headline,” Mill said. “‘Meek Mill violated probation or this happened.’ It was never a time where I got a chance to explain myself and my side of the story and the obstacles I had to get through just to make it to this point I’m at today.”
According to a 2017 report from the Prison Policy Initiative, over $80 billion is spent each year on corrections. When factoring in the costs to the government and the families of those “justice-involved,” that number reaches at least $182 billion a year.
Mill is hoping that his new documentary and work with REFORM Alliance “will shed light on the injustices of the system.”
“We could get a lot of different states on the same page as if they view it the way we view it and make a positive change in the system,” he said. “I play by the motto: We willing to work with anybody we have to work with to make change for the better. I never really been emotional about who I do business with to get a better result.”
Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.