Rap artists Jay-Z and Meek Mill, along with several professional sports team owners and philanthropists, have announced the launch of a $50 million criminal justice reform initiative that will advocate for changes in state probation and parole laws.
Co-chaired by Mill and Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin — with support from Jay-Z; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; investors Daniel S. Loeb, Michael Novogratz, and Robert Frederick Smith; and Clara Wu Tsai, investor and wife of Brooklyn Nets co-owner Joe Tsai — the Reform Alliance will focus on "changing mass supervision laws [probation and parole policies] that…have the greatest impact on the largest number of people." CNN host and activist Van Jones, who previously served as an advisor to former President Barack Obama, will serve as CEO.
Mill became a symbol for criminal justice reform activists in late 2017 after a Pennsylvania judge sentenced him to two to four years in prison for minor violations of his probation stemming from a decade-old gun and drug possession charge. "Although Meek had the resources and public platform to fight his case," the Reform Alliance states on its website, "he and the other founders recognized Meek's case is only one of millions — and that the vast majority of people trapped in the system don't have the resources to fight back." While Mill was released on bail in April 2018 following an international campaign, he remains on probation until 2023. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 4.5 million people are currently on parole or probation in the United States.
At a press conference, Jones said the Reform Alliance is taking aim at the cycle of probation and parole violations that leads back to prison, the Associated Press reports. Starting with Pennsylvania and New York, the alliance's efforts will be focused on educating the public and lawmakers about how minor violations such as missing an appointment can have huge, lasting repercussions.
"That is the revolving door that keeps people back in and back in and back in," said Jones. "We're going to dismantle that revolving door."