Philly hip hop star Meek Mill and several state lawmakers unveiled new legislation aimed at reforming Pennsylvania’s probation and parole system.
Mill, along with 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, news commentator Van Jones, state Reps. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) and Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) announced the proposed bill Tuesday afternoon outside the municipal services building in Center City.
“I’m only here to use my platform and my voice to speak for the people who don’t have a voice,” Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, said. “It’s a lot of young men actually locked behind the walls and stacked up with probation and trying to do well with themselves and move forward, but they can’t because the odds are so great against them.”
The legislation would prevent the courts from sentencing a person to consecutive probation sentences, prevent the court from extending a person’s time on probation or parole due to nonpayment of fines and fees and establish a system of incentives that would reward good behavior.
The bill would also ensure that people under supervision wouldn’t be re-incarcerated for testing positive for marijuana, associating with someone with a criminal history or traveling outside their jurisdiction, unless it was proven they were trying to escape supervision.
Mill was jailed for violating his probation and has become one of the most famous faces behind the criminal justice reform movement since his release. Both he and Rubin are co-chairs of the REFORM Alliance, a collective aimed at passing probation and parole bills at the state level to reduce the number of people under the criminal justice system.
“With this proposed legislation, we want to put people on probation and parole in positions to succeed – not to wind up back in prison and perpetuate an ongoing cycle,” Jones, the CEO of the REFORM Alliance, said.
The issue of how long those convicted of a crime should spend in the justice system outside of prison has received scrutiny across the country. It’s an issue all too familiar with Philadelphia native Darrell Briddell.
“If you go and do how many years you have to do, that should be your debt to society,” Briddell said.
Briddell is under supervised release after serving time in federal prison for bank robbery. He told NBC10 it could impact his job with a demolition company.
“Let’s say my job says we’ve got a job in Pittsburgh. I can’t just pick up and go with the job to Pittsburgh,” Briddell said. “Now I have to call my PO. ‘Listen, I have a job in Pittsburgh, this that and the third.’ She’s going to have to do her diligence for me to be able to go to Pittsburgh, and to her it might be like, ‘It’s not worth it. No, you can’t go.’ Now that eliminates me from working at this job.”
A local lawmaker supporting the bill told NBC10 they hope to have the legislation written and filed within the next few weeks.