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Jay-Z and Meek Mill join forces in justice reform fight

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 1/23/2019 Elizabeth Elizalde, Leonard Greene
Meek Mill posing for the camera © Kathy Willens / AP

Rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill got behind the mic Wednesday for a new collaboration - for criminal justice reform.

The hip hop stars joined a cross section of sports, entertainment and business industry leaders who collectively pledged $50 million with an aim to get at least one million people out of jail over the next five years.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philiadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai and CNN host Van Jones, who will serve as the group’s CEO, were among those who sat on a Manhattan stage to launch the Reform Alliance.

The group will focus on probation and parole issues, problems Mill said he is all too familiar with.

“I was making money, I was traveling, I was out of this bad environment,” Mill said at the news conference at John Jay College. “But I was still coming in and out of prison. It was kind of embarrassing, meeting people worldwide and it's your third time in prison. And I’d have to say it was something from 2008. Since then I haven’t even been accused of a crime.”

JAY-Z sitting on a stage © Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

Mill was jailed for five months last year on a petty probation violation, and said he wants to advocate for others caught up in the system who don’t have his connections.

The alliance formed after Mill's controversial two- to four-year prison sentence for technical probation violation in November 2017. The ruling spurred an international #FreeMeek campaign, which resulted in his release on bail last April.

Jay-Z said Mill’s case convinced him to get on board.

"For me, I'm from Marcy projects, I'm from Brooklyn and this has been a part of my life," Jay-Z said. "These are communities that we grew up in, friends that I have, people around me. So I grew up with this issue.”

“We have to applaud him," he said of Mill. "Every set back, he came out stronger and that takes a really dedicated person. We're all prisoners to this. No one's free. That and education are the two most important issues for us.”

Jay-Z also discussed the plight of teenager Kalief Browder, who was held for three years at Rikers Island when his Bronx family couldn’t come up with $200 in bail money. He spent two years in solitary confinement and was never convicted of a crime.

Browder maintained his innocence and turned down several plea offers before his case was dismissed in 2013. He committed suicide two years later.

Jay-Z produced a six-part documentary on Browder’s story.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf were also at the reform event.

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