On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled that the lower court must immediately issue an order to release rapper Meek Mill, whose prison sentence sparked a national debate over the severity of his sentence.
Mill was sentenced to serve two to four years in prison for violating probation.
“Although I’m blessed to have the resources to fight this unjust situation, I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan on using my platform to shine a light on those issues,” Mill said in a statement Tuesday.
Meek Mill statement: pic.twitter.com/QGT4Jn6BzR
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 24, 2018
Since Mill received first his sentence five months ago, many have rallied behind the rapper, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, who showed their support through protests, viral social media campaigns, and formal statements. Rappers like Jay-Z have also voiced their support for Mill, who called the sentencing “unjust and heavy handed” in a statement.
Local government officials in Pennsylvania also rallied behind Mill. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said two weeks ago that Mill’s case made it clear that “we need to work to make our criminal justice system more fair, more equitable, and more focused on rehabilitation.”
One thing has become clear from this renewed attention — we need to work to make our criminal justice system more fair, more equitable, and more focused on rehabilitation.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 12, 2018
A decade ago the rapper was arrested for drug dealing and gun possession. He was subsequently sentenced to eight months in prison and later paroled in 2009. After that he was given five years of probation. Since then, judges like Judge Genece E. Brinkley, have made it difficult for the rapper to close that chapter of his life for good. Brinkley last sentenced him for probation violation due to a fight in an airport (though the charges were dropped) and reckless driving on a dirt bike in 2017.
As ThinkProgress reported last November, the severity of Mill’s sentencing reflects what some criminal justice experts have called the “rotating door” effect, in which people who have committed minor offenses are sent to jail over and over again.
“This sentence seems completely misguided,” Erik Nielson, an associate liberal arts professor at the University of Richmond and expert in hip-hop who works to defend rap in courtrooms, told ThinkProgress. “Here’s somebody who is an accomplished hip-hop artist in a city where thousands of kids look up to him. He has tons of contacts in the music industry. Why would you put him away instead of channeling his talent and instead make him do something for the community? Because it’s not as if taking him off the streets makes it safer at night.”