Pennsylvania legislator praises Meek Mill for rallying support behind state criminal justice reform bill

Pennsylvania state Rep. Jordan Harris (D) praised Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill on Monday for rallying support around the state’s efforts to overhaul its parole and probation system.

Mill was released on bail last year after violating his probation in a years-old gun and drug possession case. Questions have since been raised over the nature of his 2017 arrest, and he is expected to receive a new hearing next month.

Harris told Hill.TV that Meek’s sentencing over parole violations is common among former inmates.

“What happened to Meek is not unique, his situation is not unique. And if you talk to anybody who has a relative in the system, they will tell you that set of circumstances isn’t unique,” Harris said. “The difference is, because he’s Meek Mill because he’s a famous entertainer, more people have paid attention.”

“I’m just grateful that folks like Meek have turned this setback into an opportunity to galvanize support around the work that legislatures like myself and Sheryl and others across the nation are doing in state legislatures,” he added, referring to state Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R), lead sponsor of the legislation backed by Harris.

Harris and a group of bipartisan lawmakers alongside rapper Meek Mill’s Reform Alliance, introduced a measure last month that aims to reduce recidivism and help former inmates avoid violations like failing to pay court fees or finding a job that can keep them trapped in the prison system.

The bill also would remove parole violations like testing positive for legal medical marijuana and traveling outside the jurisdiction of the court.

Harris argued that the state’s current setup is ineffective and outdated.

“The system should be about how do we restore people, how do we get them back into our society, not how we hinder them,” he said.

Probation or parole violations have contributed heavily to the rapid growth of prison and jail populations nationwide.

Nearly one-third of prison beds were occupied by people who had violated terms of their probation or parole, according to a recent study by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

—Tess Bonn