NEW YORK — A coalition of big names in sports and entertainment is taking on criminal justice reform.
Rappers Meek Mill and Jay-Z and the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots came together in New York City on Wednesday to announce the launch of an organization that will lobby for changes to state probation and parole laws.
The Reform Alliance will be led by Van Jones, a CNN host and activist who at one point served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama.
Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin said the group is dedicating $50 million to the effort.
Mill became a symbol for criminal justice reform activists after a judge in Pennsylvania sentenced him to 2-4 years in prison for minor violations of his probation conditions in a decade-old gun and drug possession case. He spent months in prison before a court ordered him released.
The performer said the Reform initiative “is one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life” and that he’s speaking “for people who don’t have a voice.”
About 2.2 million people in the U.S. are incarcerated, and about 4.5 million are on probation or parole, according to government statistics.
“If you thought my case was unfair, there are millions of others dealing with worse situations and caught up in the system without committing crimes,” said Mill, who will remain on probation until 2023. “With this alliance, we want to change outdated laws, give people hope and reform a system that’s stacked against us.”
Jones said the Reform Alliance is taking aim at the cycle of probation and parole violations that leads people back to prison.
“That is the revolving door that keeps people back in and back in and back in,” Jones said. “We’re going to dismantle that revolving door.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said the current system “is not good for America.”
“We can make America better if we really cure this problem,” he said.
Deepti Hajela, The Associated Press