Roc Nation artist and REFORM Alliance co-chair Meek Mill was in Richmond, VA, yesterday to accompany Gov. Ralph Northam as the state’s highest executive official signed House Bill 2038. The bill “limits the amount of active incarceration a court can impose as a result of a revocation hearing for a probation violation” to a maximum of one year for a misdemeanor or five years for a felony. Prior to that, Virginia was one of seven states that still permitted unbounded probation sentences, a policy that has seen a disproportionate amount of lower-income residents and minorities return to prison for technical violations, such as forgetting to report any change in employment status.
“Too many people are in prison not because of the original crime they committed, but because once they were out on probation, they did something that caused the court to revoke their probation and send them back to prison,” Northam highlighted at the signing. “If someone commits another crime while on probation or absconds, that’s one thing,” he later continued. However, plenty of a large portion of Virginia’s prison population is behind bars because of technical violations. “That’s what lands you back in prison,” Northam said, “and that’s wrong.”
As reported by CNN, the move is only the latest in a series of acts of legislative overhaul since Democrats took greater control of state government. Last year, Northam made “no-knock warrants” illegal in Virginia. Then, in April of this year, he legalized simple possession of cannabis in VA, making it the first state in the South to do so.
“I get paid not a dollar to this … I am a rapper, this is the business I chose, this is the dream I chose, that’s how I got in a position to be here,” Mill said during the press conference. He was flanked by Northam, REFORM Alliance CEO Robert Rooks, Alliance co-chair Michael Rubin, and state delegate Don Scott. “I try to dance the lines of remaining classy, but still keeping the ear of younger people, and being able to speak to the governor today and being able to close gaps … I have the resources and I’m in position to do better.”
“Our criminal justice system has focused too much on punishment, and too little on grace and compassion,” Northam said. “This legislation marks an important step forward in our ongoing work to ensure Virginia’s criminal justice system is fair and equitable.”