Luke Walsh ‘19
Throughout January and February, the entire Philadelphia area centered around two things: the Eagles and Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares.” It was a great two months. But while we were partying (somewhat rioting) in the streets, the man that brought us all together through one song wasn’t with us. Rather, he was in a jail cell because he violated his parole for the gun and drug charges with which he was convicted at 21 years old.
Meek Mill’s situation exemplifies select problems with law enforcement, the judicial process, and imprisonment in this country. His parole, following a brief jail sentence in 2009, came with intensive drug testing, which Meek failed after testing positive for Marijuana and other opiates. This led the hearer of the case, Judge Genece Brinkley, to implement a more intensive probation, which severely overstepped its boundaries. Along with being forced to remain in Philadelphia County for a two-month period before a court hearing, Meek Mill was also forced to take etiquette classes for crass language and behavior in the court. Meek received punishments such as being asked by Brinkley to do a cover of a Boyz II Men song, shout her out in a song, and sign with a local Philadelphia record label that she had ties to because she knew the owner. While many have questioned these motives as being extremely biased, the courts of Philadelphia have continually insisted that Meek Mill’s case has been fair and just.
With consistent extensions to Meek’s probation, it became harder for him to continue his rap career as he was often restricted from going to certain places like New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. This obviously put Meek at a disadvantage as he could not market, network, or perform as freely as he desired. As the probation violations piled up, Meek soon found himself with a two to four year sentence.
Without even mentioning the reported racial bigotry of the officer, who arrested Meek originally in 2008, this case is a fine example of the improper handling of American citizens in our legal system. Meek Mill is now 30 years old, but he is still being reprimanded for his behavior as a mere 21-year-old. As a 21-year-old myself, I can’t even picture myself at 30, let alone be held accountable for over nine years for my actions today.
This brings us to the #FreeMeek movement. Meek Mill has garnered global attention for his sentencing with fellow rappers, professional athletes, politicians, and even the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, all pleading for his release. This all led to April 24. Meek Mill was finally let out of prison, drove down to game 5 of the Heat-Sixers series and rang the bell in the Wells Fargo Center to start the game. The #FreeMeek movement was a success.
While the hashtags are endearing and the support must be overwhelming for Meek himself, there is so much more that could be done, and this situation does not only revolve around Meek Mill. The mistreatment of thousands of citizens in this country, who are sucked into the prison pipeline, needs systemic change in order for these situations to stop.
Our country must give former prisoners opportunities, not restrict them from future opportunities. If there is no change that comes to the legal system anytime soon, Meek Mill, just like so many others, will end up right back in a cell. Meek might be free right now, but under our current system, it might not be for long.