Friday, May 4, 2018

Out of prison--Meek Mill is pushing criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania

Newly freed rapper Meek Mill is putting his celebrity status behind criminal justice reforms in Pennsylvania, reported WHYY. He joined Gov. Tom Wolf and other top state officials Thursday at the National Constitution Center to push for changes in everything from probation and parole policies to a cash bail system that Wolf said is equivalent to “debtor’s prison.”
Wolf said he hopes the national attention Mill’s case has attracted will translate into real policy change. The governor called on the state House to pass a trio of bills recently approved the state Senate that would release nonviolent offenders more quickly and help move more prisoners into substance abuse programs, while also pumping more dollars into probation and parole programs across the state.
The raft of legislation, Wolf said, is not just about offender rehabilitation, but also victim protection.
“But we can do that while also ending the cycle of incarceration that has left so many people, so many families feeling trapped, helpless, without an opportunity to return to society after they’ve been released,” he said, adding that the state needs to “stop using jails as mental health facilities.”
Mill, who was raised in North Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, described the community where he grew up as “ruthless” and “drug-plagued.”
Still on probation after a 2007 arrest on drug and gun charges that will likely be dismissed, Mill said said his probation officer helped steer him into a treatment program after he told her he was addicted to opioids.
“It changed my life,” he said Thursday.
It is the type of problem, Mill said, that those on court supervision should not be afraid to admit to officers tasked with keeping probationers on the straight and narrow.
“I don’t think any human being should be locked, shackled from top to bottom, ankle to hand, because they use marijuana or was addicted to opioids,” he said.
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