Jay-Z: Probation ‘A Land Mine’ for Blacks in America

Jay Z
Jay Z (Courtesy of DiversityInc)

“Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime,” Jay-Z wrote.

Businessman and rapper Jay-Z on Friday spoke out about America’s prison system that serves as a revolving door for parolees.

Jay-Z was reacting in response to the news that rapper Meek Mill was sentenced to prison for two to four years following several parole violations. Mill is signed to Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment company that he founded almost 10 years ago.

“For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside,” Jay-Z wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times.

Mill was convicted in 2008 for weapons and drug possession charges. He served eight months in jail and was sentenced to probation. Mill, now 30, was 19 at the time.

This past year he was arrested twice, once for a fight at an airport in St. Louis and once for popping wheelies on a dirt bike in New York. The charges in the St. Louis altercation were dropped, and Mill accepted a dismissal deal in the dirt bike incident.

Judge Genece Brinkley has been in charge of Mill’s case all along. Brinkley went against the recommendations of a prosecutor and Mill’s probation officer, who both recommended Mill not serve jail time.

“Think about that,” Jay-Z wrote in The Times. “The charges were either dropped or dismissed, but the judge sent him to prison anyway.”

While Jay-Z was focusing specifically on Mill’s situation, he also noted that “people trapped in the criminal justice system are punished every day.”

“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.

“As of 2015, one-third of the 4.65 million Americans who were on some form of parole or probation were black. Black people are sent to prison for probation and parole violations at much higher rates than white people,” Jay-Z wrote.

Regarding Philadelphia, Mill’s hometown, Jay-Z said, “About half of the people in city jails in Philadelphia are there for probation or parole violations. We could literally shut down jails if we treated people on parole or probation more fairly.”

“Probation is a trap and we must fight for Meek and everyone else unjustly sent to prison,” Jay-Z concluded.

Meanwhile, Brinkley, the judge in Mill’s case, is now under intense scrutiny, and Mill’s legal team has called for her to recuse herself. One of his attorneys, Joe Tacopina, told The Times that Brinkley “has exhibited enormous bias.”

According to The Times, Tacopina explained that “Judge Brinkley [has] behaved inappropriately over the course of the case, saying, for example, that the judge had requested that the rapper include her name in a song and had given him unsolicited advice on who should manage him.”

According to the motion from Mill’s legal team, the judge asked to be referenced in a recording of Mill’s rendition of “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men. When Mill refused, the judge allegedly said, “Suit yourself.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Brinkley as saying to Mill in court upon his sentencing, “I gave you break after break, and you basically just thumbed your nose at this court.”

According to the Inquirer, Mill spent 40 minutes pleading with Brinkley.

“I’m human. I’m not perfect,” he reportedly said. “I’m asking for mercy. You gave me the ladder to do what I have to do to prevail in my struggle. I made it this far, I can’t really go back and start over.”

Brian McMonagle, another attorney for Mill, told a Philly CBS affiliate, “What happened last week was a miscarriage of justice” regarding the sentencing.

Jay-Z is not the only prominent person to stand up for Mill. Similar to Jay-Z’s op-ed, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wrote a lengthy Instagram post in which not only did he highlight Mill specifically but racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

“Meek Mill is a victim of this systemic oppression.

“Yes, there needs to be action surrounding sentencing reform, but there needs to also be action taken around abolishing the racialized norms of injustice that can lead to Meek Mill serving 2-4 years in prison for non-violent parole violations, and Brock Turner only serving 3 months in prison for three felony counts of sexual assault.”

Rapper Drake during a show over the weekend said, “Free Meek Mill” while he was on stage.

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