Sports and entertainment figures including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael Rubin, recording artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z, and recording artist Meek Mill announced the foundation of a criminal justice reform organization called REFORM Alliance.
The organization was conceived after Rubin arranged a meeting between Kraft and Meek Mill last spring, when the artist was in prison for a highly controversial probation violation that generated extensive media coverage and calls for change.
“After meeting him in jail, I felt affection for him,” Kraft said. “We had developed a nice relationship. And I’ve never been to jail before. Going there and seeing him, I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night when I got home. Because here I’m thinking how out of touch something like myself is with what’s really going on.”
In a news conference and presentation Wednesday at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the co-founders explained their goals and initiatives, which includes removing one million people from the criminal justice system within five years.
“We give to charitable things and we try to do good,” Kraft continued. “But here you have (Meek Mill), who’s creative, who’s innovative, who’s inspiring to young people. And for riding a motorcycle and doing a wheelie, he’s put in jail where tax payers are paying to keep him going, and he’s not employing all the people he could be employing and generating all of the tax dollars he could do. It’s just a cuckoo system – forgetting the social impact of that.
Together, the founders have devoted $50 million to the organization.
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At REFORM, we #FightDifferent. Our collective disgust with the current state of the American criminal justice system is creating a powerful, growing alliance that spans different backgrounds, industries and political beliefs. We are bringing together leaders in business, government, entertainment, sports, technology, art, and culture to give voice to the voiceless. We won’t stop until we’ve changed the laws, policies, and practices that perpetuate the horrific injustice we’re seeing in America. The Alliance started with the unjust re-imprisonment of recording artist @MeekMill due to minor technical probation violations. The shocking two-to-four year sentence Meek received in November 2017 spurred the international #FreeMeek movement, which led to his release on bail in April 2018. Although Meek had the resources and public platform to fight his case, he and the other founders recognized Meek’s case is only one of millions – and that the vast majority of people trapped in the system don’t have the resources to fight back. After Meek’s release, we joined forces and committed to changing mass supervision laws (probation and parole policies) that will have the greatest impact on the largest number of people. The mission of the REFORM Alliance is to dramatically reduce the number of people who are unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system – starting with probation and parole. To win, we will leverage our considerable resources to change laws, policies, hearts and minds.