Northam signs probation reform bill alongside Meek Mill
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was joined by rapper Meek Mill on Wednesday as he signed legislation to reform parole policies in the state.

Northam on Wednesday told reporters that the state has “taken important steps forward to reform our criminal justice system,” in recent years, including ending the use of the death penalty, legalizing marijuana and more.

“We have done these things because our criminal justice system has been inequitable for far too long. Too many crimes bring lengthy sentences that outweigh the severity of the offense, and that has resulted in far too many people, particularly too many people of color in our prisons and jails,” Northam said.

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“Too many people are in prison not because of the original crime they committed, but because once they were out on probation, did something that caused the court to revoke their probation and send them back to prison,” he added.

Northam made the remarks prior to signing legislation known as HB 2038, which limits the length of time a person can be sentenced to probation in some circumstances, in addition to modifying other parole procedures in the state. 

“Now, if someone commits another crime on probation or absconds, that’s one thing. But too often, these are what are called technical violations, such as missing a meeting with a probation officer or failing to report a change in jobs. That’s what lands you back in prison, and that’s wrong,” Northam said ahead of signing the bill.

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“That’s not how our system should be working. Justice must be fair. It must be equitable, and punishment should fit the crime,” he added. 

Rapper Meek Mill, who has previously been sentenced to prison for violating parole, also spoke at the Wednesday bill signing. The Philadelphia district attorney lifted his probation in 2019. 

“I’m a rapper from Philadelphia. I come up from the streets. We grew up dancing on the lines of the law because we come from poverty,” Meek Mill said Wednesday, lauding the state legislation. 

"I'll make sure I'll be able to deliver and close every bridge I can to help fix the system, because I was affected by that," he added.

The rapper on social media shared images from the bill signing, tweeting thanking Northam for signing the legislation into law.