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Free Meek Mill

The rapper's case shows the problems with overcriminalization and the aggressive enforcement of petty laws.

Department of CorrectionsDepartment of CorrectionsThe rapper Meek Mill has just been sentenced to two to four years in prison because a judge decided he had violated his parole and was "thumbing [his] nose at the court." The sentence, made possible by a 10-year-old probation status, illustrates the need not just for sentencing reform but for a reckoning with overcriminalization and the aggressive enforcement of petty laws.

Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in 2008 after being convicted on drug and gun possession charges and was released in early 2009 with a five-year probation order. That was extended another five years because Mill, horror of horrors, left the state of Pennsylvania to perform at shows.

Drug and gun charges are often seen in tandem, because drug prohibition means those involved in the trade don't have access to a legal dispute-resolution system, forcing them to rely on their ability to defend themselves. These gun enhancements lead to higher rates of incarceration, particularly within marginalized communities, and all the evidence suggests that a crackdown on guns would mirror the destructive and ineffective war on drugs. Nonetheless, gun control advocates keep pushing for that crackdown.

It is thanks to such laws that people like Mill, never accused of a violent crime, end up under state supervision for long periods of time. That in turn makes them more vulnerable to a bevy of other capricious laws.

In Mill's case, he was charged with a misdemeanor after getting into an altercation with a photographer in St. Louis who was trying to take a picture of him, and he was charged with reckless driving for illegally riding his dirt bike while shooting a music video in Manhattan. Both arrests happened this year.

The first charge was dropped. In the New York City case, Mill accepted a dismissal deal that saw him do 30 hours of community service and not be required to admit guilt. Despite that, he's going to jail.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio claims to be a supporter of criminal justice reform, yet he insists that petty laws be aggressively enforced. While this is especially likely to entangle the poor, who can't afford hefty fines for essentially harmless behavior, it can impact anyone, particularly in conjunction with prior offenses or other legal problems.

One of Mill's lawyers claims that the judge in the case, Genece Brinkley, has acted vindictively and inappropriately, giving Mill advice on who his manager should be and asking him to remake the Boyz II Men song "On Bended Knee" and shout her out in it. Brinkley has been involved with Meek's troubles since he first caught the convictions for drug and gun possession. Such longevity increases the opportunity for inappropriate behavior because of the sense of familiarity it breeds. It also leaves offenders largely at the whim of just one individual.

Mill's case has galvanized activists and protesters. Jay-Z, whose label Roc Nation signed Mill, blasted the court system at a show in Dallas, while demonstrators held a "Free Meek Mill" rally in Philadelphia, where they also called on Brinkley to recuse herself.

Preventing such miscarriages in the future will require us to question a vast pile of petty laws that fuel an industry—of judges, cops, probation officers, others—whose primary goal often seems to be its own perpetuation.

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  • Rhywun||

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio claims to be a supporter of criminal justice reform, yet he insists that petty laws be aggressively enforced.

    Not for more than a year now.

  • GILMORE™||

    pssssh. "reporting" is for suckers. Journalists do petty-outrage now.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    NEVER agree to probation. Just do the time and be done with the state.

    To quote Admiral Ackbar: "Its a trap"!

    He should have fought the gun charge as the 2nd Amendment prohibits infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yep. It is impossible to comply with all the demands of probation, just as it is impossible to drive from point A to point B and comply with all traffic laws. So just as a cop who doesn't like you has only to follow you for a period of time before you give them an excuse, probation officers can lock up anyone who they don't like with enough investigation.

    "Show me the man, and I'll show you the crime."

    - Lavrentiy Beria, head of Joseph Stalin's secret police

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Hat tip Kmele Foster?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    He already got to fuck Nicki Minaj, now he gets to get out of prison too!? Lucky sonuvagun.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Beez in the trap..beez beez in the trap.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    And how.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    One of Mill's lawyers claims that the judge in the case, Genece Brinkley, has acted vindictively and inappropriately, giving Mill advice on who his manager should be and asking him to remake the Boyz II Men song "On Bended Knee" and shout her out in it.

    Oh, boy.

  • Crusty Juggler||

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Let us all take a long look at ourselves and ask, can we blame her?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams

    People who don't conform to the identity issued on their birth certificates are mentally ill.

  • Rich||

    OTOH, the Meek shall inherit the earth.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The state has issued his identity, and that's all that matters in the end.

  • Rich||

    One of Mill's lawyers claims that the judge in the case, Genece Brinkley, has acted vindictively and inappropriately, giving Mill advice on who his manager should be and asking him to remake the Boyz II Men song "On Bended Knee" and shout her out in it.

    Here come da judge!

  • colorblindkid||

    I will fight for legalizing all drugs and all guns and getting rid of all our stupid laws that lead to over-incarceration until we achieve our libertarian utopia, but I'm sorry if I have little actual sympathy for people, especially wealthy people, who knowingly do stupid things in very stupid ways and get caught.

  • Horatio||

    I'd be worried Meek Mill, as I'm sure those protesting this will turn it into a racial thing, achieve national recognition for your plight while ensuring that it divides the country by race rather than principled disagreement, thereby fucking over any hope you and anyone else had for reform. God I hate this timeline.

  • colorblindkid||

    It is nearly impossible to convince people that all of the solutions to police and criminal justice issues have nothing specifically to do with race, but that the effects of those reforms will have a disproportionately positive effect on black men by default. The focus on race, largely driven by the media's decision to only report stories that fit certain narratives, is the biggest obstacle to reform.

    Racism and the legacy of racist policies in our justice system are serious issue, but they are now minor side effects of the larger issues, which need to be fixed first.

  • buybuydandavis||

    The rapper Meek Mill has just been sentenced to two to four years in prison because a judge decided he had violated his parole and was "thumbing [his] nose at the court."

    He's toast. That's how you get screwed - "disrespect".

    u will respect my authoritah!

  • Longtobefree||

    11 to 23 MONTHS = 10 YEARS probation????
    And Pennsylvania complains they need more tax dollars.

    Beretta was right; if you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

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