Read Jay-Z's Stirring Open Letter On Meek Mill And America's Criminal Justice System

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 5:  Musician Jay-Z performs at a Barack Obama campaign event at Schottenstein Center on on the eve of the 2012 election November 5, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Stephen Albanese/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Read Jay-Z's Stirring Open Letter On Meek Mill And America's Criminal Justice System

"We could literally shut down jails if we treated people on parole or probation more fairly."

Published November 17, 2017

Jay-Z has been viciously campaigning for Meek Mill ever since it was announced the rapper would be going away to prison over a probation violation. After using his stage time on the 4:44 Tour to discuss the injustice against Meek, Hov recently published an op-ed for The New York Times on Nov. 17, making a case for how the justice system is essentially a “trap” for a number of men.

The open letter, which is entitled “Meek Mill and the Absurdity of the Criminal Justice System,” begins by discussing how the Philly native’s 11-year probation was unfair and ultimately led to his current situation. "This month Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating his probation. #FreeMeek hashtags have sprung up, and hundreds of his fans rallied near City Hall in Philadelphia to protest the ruling," Jay wrote about Meek’s harsh sentencing.

"On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started. But consider this: Meek was around 19 when he was convicted on charges relating to drug and gun possession, and he served an eight-month sentence. Now he’s 30, so he has been on probation for basically his entire adult life. For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside."

Hov continued his argument by providing an example of how the criminal justice system “entraps and harasses” thousands of people, specifically Black people, which is something he personally witnessed while growing up in Brooklyn. "Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime. A person on probation can end up in jail over a technical violation like missing a curfew," he wrote. "Taxpayers in Philadelphia, Meek Mill’s hometown, will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to keep him locked up, and I bet none of them would tell you his imprisonment is helping to keep them safer. He’s there because of arrests for a parole violation, and because a judge overruled recommendations by a prosecutor and his probation officer that he doesn’t deserve more jail time. That’s why I stopped my show in Dallas last week to talk about Meek."            

He added, "Think about that. The charges were either dropped or dismissed, but the judge sent him to prison anyway. The specifics of Meek’s case inspired me to write this. But it’s time we highlight the random ways people trapped in the criminal justice system are punished every day. The system treats them as a danger to society, consistently monitors and follows them for any minor infraction — with the goal of putting them back in prison."

As he concludes his piece, Jay cites 2015 statistics which claim one-third of the 4.65 million Americans who were on parole or probation were Black, with the number of Blacks being imprisoned over probation violations being much higher than their non-Black or white counterparts. "We could literally shut down jails if we treated people on parole or probation more fairly. And that’s what we need to fight for in Philadelphia and across the country," he writes. "The racial-justice organization Color of Change is working with people in Philadelphia to pressure the courts there and make that vision a reality. Probation is a trap and we must fight for Meek and everyone else unjustly sent to prison."

To read Jay-Z's full essay at The New York Times, head here.

Written by Jessica McKinney

(Photo: Stephen Albanese/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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