Meek Mill Wants To Get 1 Million People Out Of The Prison System
Last Friday (November 30), Meek Mill released his fourth album, Championships. The Maybach Music Group/Atlantic Records release is the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania MC’s first project since leaving prison in April on bail. That time incarcerated is a theme of the album which features JAY-Z, Rick Ross, Drake, Fabolous, and Cardi B, among others.
Since leaving a Chester, Pennsylvania cell this spring, Meek has advocated for change in the criminal justice system. For the last decade, Meek’s career of “wins and losses” has seeming been more of the latter than the former, as it pertains to legal issues. He has been incarcerated numerous times over the last 11 years, all tied to one judge, and stemming from an initial 2009 sentencing that left the young rapper brutally beaten. The 31-year-old Robert Rihmeek Williams maintains that corruption in his city’s police department also played a role in his initial 2007 arrest that has been the crux of his revolving door to prison.
Now free, Meek says he wants to help others. On The Breakfast Club, Meek spoke about teaming with Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael Rubin in a pledge to free one million people from the prison system as part of their Reform Now organization. “When we say ‘one million,’ we ain’t talkin’ one million people out of prison, just out of the system. There’s a lot of the people on bail—with $100 bails, people on probation for long periods of time that don’t need to be on probation for 15 years for crimes that don’t even hold that much time. So we’re just working hard and trying to make change. I always tell people, I’m not [in] an activist [period of my life], I’m just on some, ‘this is what I’m bringing to the table.’ I’m experienced; I know a lot about it. I got a lot of manpower behind me that cares about what’s going on. We’re trying to make change,” he says between 7:00 and 8:30.
He discusses songs like “Trauma,” which advocate for marijuana use to cope with rampant posttraumatic stress disorder in places like where Meek grew up. Meanwhile, he says that the firearms that prompt many felony charges are often mandatory lines of self-defense in a world far removed from a judge’s gavel. This is not necessarily about race either, according to the Rap star. “My judge was Black, my [probation officer] was Black, the [District Attorney] was white, the cops that arrested me was Black.”
He describes how even as he proclaimed his innocence more than a decade ago, he was persuaded to admit guilt. “I [recently gave a speech about] how one of the cops that arrested me, he was 33 [and] I was 19. He got up there and was dropping tears like, ‘I asked the judge not to give you a lot of time if you apologize to me.’ She was like, ‘Mr. Williams, do you want to apologize to him before you get sentenced?’ My life is on the line; I could get five-to-10 years, 10-20 years. ‘No, I don’t want to apologize to him, ’cause I didn’t do it.’ My lawyer tapped me on my side and whispered in my ear, ‘You better apologize right now; this could change your life right now.’ I [said to the police officer], ‘If you felt threatened, I apologize. But [I cannot] apologize for pointing no gun at you, ’cause I [did not do it].’ That’s how that worked though.” Meek says that exchange, which ultimately landed him behind bars in 2009, is on record for all to read. He adds that parole officers need an admission of guilt before they consider early release. Later in the interview, Meek reveals that he was barred from discussing his case on social media, compromising his freedom of speech. Meek scoffs at the rules that convicted felons cannot speak to each other, especially when there are families from some environments that have multiple felons.
Last week, Meek Mill told Big Boy’s Neighborhood about what it was like inside the walls in Chester. “[Prison] is hell on earth.” At 18:00, he described sharing a toilet with no seat, a small adjacent sink, and close quarters with a cellmate. “Google a jail food tray. You would think [it is] fake. No. It’s the worst food you could possibly eat in the world. It’s trifling: mice, rats. You’re going to sleep every night with 13 mice running around on my floor, balled up, on my floor. It’s hell on earth, basically. People don’t know ’til they get there. A lot of young kids, they livin’ ruthless. So they might shoot somebody. Your first time in the penitentiary, you’re like, ‘Damn, nobody didn’t really warn me that it was going to be like this.” Meek confirms that rape remains a reality in prison. “I think in the future, I’ll be [involved] with programs that [teach the youth] what they’re really getting themselves into [if they go to prison by committing crimes].” “Oodles O’ Noodles Babies” on Championships addresses the conditions.
“Why you gotta have shackles on you for [being arrested for smoking marijuana]? Shackles are for slaves,” Meek points out. “I spent time with a guy. He had [a sentence of] 28 months and his bail was $100.” Meek says he offered to pay the man’s bail, not after encouraging him to take some initiative and get ready for re-entry to the outside.
Citing “self-hate” on The Breakfast Club in the consciousness of people that wanted to hold him down, Meek says this experience prompted him to make peace with former Rap foes such as Drake, The Game, and others. “It’s all love,” he says, comparing it to being around people with life sentences over mistakes. “If my life ain’t on the line, we can bypass this right now.”
Meek also admits to The Breakfast Club about the resistance he has faced by going to the mat for prison reform, and how his priorities come first. “All I know is I get $250,000 a show, I’m making money every day, I’m doing what I want to do how I do it. I ain’t breakin’ no laws. Leave me the hell alone. Leave me out of all that sh*t.” Charlamagne Tha God says that his position on prison reform is messing with the system’s money. “All y’all gotta do is give me a warning. I’ll get out y’all way. I ain’t here to sacrifice my life for everybody; I’m here to sacrifice my life for my family and my son, for real.” Charlamagne doubles down and asks that if Meek received a warning to stop advocating for reform if it cost him his freedom. “Yeah, I’d probably fall back. Go ‘head. Let somebody else handle that. This sh*t ’bout my son n’ them; I ain’t goin’ back to jail for these m’f*ckas. I ain’t goin’ to jail for nobody. I’m goin’ to jail for my family. I’ll sacrifice myself for my mother, my sister, my son, [and] if I can help [others] along the way then that’s what it is. [That is] not to be selfish, what I can do, I will help.” He puts the question back on Charlamagne, then adds, “I’ma G. I’ll tell you what I’d [really] do. I ain’t here to spit that political sh*t to sway the world. If I can save one person [from] jail, I’m cool with that.”
Dismissing himself from that category, Meek Mill praises Colin Kaepernick. “That’s why he’s so much of a hero. He sacrificed his dreams and his life for the sake of police brutality, and all these ni**as still won’t stand behind him. They’ll still go against exactly what he represents.” Charlamagne asks Meek if he’s ever asked his friend, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, why Colin Kaepernick was not signed. Meek says he has not, nor has he asked Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Laurey, another personal acquaintance. He does agree that Kap’ is being “blackballed.”