You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Meek Mill Wants to Free 1 Million Prisoners in the Next Five Years

In the last decade, Meek Mill has topped the Billboard charts, released platinum-certified albums, and established himself as one of the most popular rappers around. He’s also served stints in prison and has been on probation his entire adult life, with six years left.

Mill spoke with Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and other panelists at Variety-Rolling Stone’s Criminal Justice Reform Summit on Nov. 14 at the Hotel Jeremy in West Hollywood.  Other speakers included Kim Kardashian West, CNN’s Van Jones, three state governors, Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith, actress-advocate Allison Williams, and Shaka Senghor, Anti-Recidivism Coalition executive director.

Mill was arrested in 2007, when he was 19, for a crime he maintains he never committed. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to two years in prison and eight years of probation. Meek has been imprisoned “at least four times” since, most recently in 2017 for breaking probation and popping a wheelie on a dirt bike, a ruling many have criticized.

His experience with incarceration led him and Rubin to launch a foundation that aims to free a million people in the next five years. “When I found the value for myself, I wanted to make a change,” Mill said. “What about the kids like me growing up in my neighborhood who don’t have anybody to speak up for them?”

In conversation with Jones, Kardashian West talked about her advocacy this year that convinced President Trump to grant clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, who served more than 20 years in prison over a nonviolent drug-related offense. Kardashian West said taking on Johnson’s case and listening to stories of men and women in prison have “changed my life” and that she now reads cases as her “nighttime reading” before bed.

“I didn’t mean to have a judgmental mind going into it, but I thought, ‘OK, If anyone’s ever taken someone’s life, I don’t think I could really stand behind this,’” Kardashian West said. “I left there after sitting there for hours talking to these women and thought, ‘I am no different than them, besides a bad decision.’”

Jones, a co-founder of #cut50 reform movement, said the incarceration industry makes money off prisoners, many of whom are black and brown people unfairly convicted or given overly long sentences. He added that both conservatives and liberals should be outraged at mass incarceration, which violates the founding pillars of the United States: “Liberty and justice for all.”

While talking to Kardashian West in the afternoon, Jones broke the news onstage that Trump had endorsed the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill that proposes policies like shortening mandatory minimum sentences.

Three governors across the aisle spoke about efforts they’ve taken to reduce the prison population, ranging from ending the death penalty and decriminalizing marijuana, to supporting reintegration programs. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said increasing the prison population only drives up crime rates and costs for taxpayers, whereas prisoners who reenter society effectively can become productive members of the workforce. Also outlining the reform actions they’ve taken were Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT).

In the storytelling panel moderated by Claudia Eller, Variety’s co-editor in chief, Scott Budnick, a producer and founder of ARC, said Hollywood can move the needle regarding criminal justice reform. He cited a screening in D.C. of the documentary “The House I Live In,” which tackles the drug war, in leading to legislation that may ultimately see 6,000 people released from prison.

Behind the camera, Budnick said powerful people can also employ formerly incarcerated individuals and give them a chance to succeed. He mentioned that NBCUniversal, Disney, and Warner Bros. have all recently hired ARC members who previously served jail time.

Rudy Valdez, the filmmaker behind “The Sentence,” said the documentary was about his sister, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for non-violent crimes. He showed the film at Capitol Hill and garnered support from Republican and Democratic senators alike.

“It’s a film that takes this issue and doesn’t politicize it,” Valdez said. “This is a hearts-and-minds film … There needs to be a cultural shift, that we can no longer watch this happen and watch people profit on the backs of poor black and brown people, disenfranchised people across this country.”

Featured speaker Bernard Noble recounted how he received a more than 13-year sentence for possessing two joints of marijuana. “People in states were making a killing on marijuana while I was just sitting in jail,” Noble said. “It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I felt like I was just another man of color just burnt by the system.”

Daniel Loeb, whose Margaret & Daniel Loeb Foundation was a co-sponsor of the event, said he wanted to help Noble, even though he had never met him in the three years he worked on the case. Loeb also urged people in the room to create networks and aid one another in their activism. “We need this network, we need everyone’s energy,” he aid. “Networks are so much more powerful than hierarchies.”

A variety of criminal justice reform organizations like #cut50, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and the Justice Action Network were supporting partners of the event.

More Music

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Billie Eilish

    Billie Eilish Fans to Receive Perks Due to Chicago Venue Change

    Billie Eilish and her music agents at Paradigm are experiencing what most would call a first class problem. The demand to see the 17-year-old singer live has prompted a change of venue for her June 9 show in Chicago — from the 5,000-capacity Aragon Ballroom to the 20,000-plus-seat United Center arena. The last-minute venue change [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres Buys Adam Levine’s Beverly

    Adam Levine Cashes in on Sale of Max Mutchnick’s Former Mansion to Ellen DeGeneres

    Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo have sold a baronial Beverly Hills mansion with an illustrious chain of ownership for a reported $45 million to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The mainstream radio rock star, who, it was announced Friday, will not to return as a coach on “The Voice,” and the Namibian-born Victoria’s Secret [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • Dan the Automator

    Heeding the Call of Olivia Wilde, Dan the Automator Scores 'Booksmart'

    Dan The Automator, aka Daniel Nakamura, knows a thing or two about setting a mood. The Bay Area-based producer has worked on projects such as Gorillaz’s debut album, Handsome Boy Modeling School (with Prince Paul) and multiple projects with rapper Kool Keith. Now, Nakamura has set his sights on film scoring, and will make his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content