The U.S. criminal justice system protects wealthy white men, rapper Meek Mill said at an event Wednesday night in Lohrfink Auditorium.
Mill, a Philadelphia native, was first arrested in 2007 for possession of drugs and an unlicensed firearm, and was sentenced to prison two years later. Mill was released on good behavior in 2009 after eight months in prison. Mill later violated his probation multiple times, causing him to be sent back to prison in 2014.
He was arrested twice in 2017, once for getting into a fistfight in an airport and later for a video that showed him doing stunts on a dirt bike in New York City. A Philadelphia judge sent Mill back to prison in 2017. He was released this year when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that he be granted bail after serving five months of his two- to four-year sentence.
Mill brought national attention in the spring to the criminal justice movement as the focus of the #FreeMeekMill movement, an effort by Meek Mill fans to draw attention to what they saw as Mill’s unfair imprisonment. At Wednesday’s event, Mill discussed prison and criminal justice reform with Professor Marc Howard, the founding director of Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.
The criminal justice system works in favor of wealthy, white men, Mill said, referencing a conversation he had with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“I was sitting in the studio with Robert Kraft the other day and I said, ‘You’re an old, rich, white, wealthy man,’” Mill said. “‘If you called the police right now and say I punched you in the face, and when they get here and I say, ‘No, he punched me in my face,’ what do you think is gonna happen? I’m gonna go to jail.’”
Mill’s childhood in South Philadelphia, where he witnessed violence and crime, made his interactions with the criminal justice system inevitable, he said.
“People were selling drugs on my doorstep. People were shooting on each corner of my neighborhood. Prostitutes all over my neighborhood and coming out and seeing that on a daily basis as a child. That’s all I know,” Mill said. “So you know, it’s like I’m on a hundred mile an hour race to meet the penitentiary.”
A police officer who testified at Mill’s trial accused the rapper of assault because the officer’s hand broke when he punched Mill in the face, according to Mill.
“Actually, a cop came and testified,” Mill said. “I think he said that his hand got fractured and that I fractured his hand. They actually charged me with assault for his hand being fractured when his hand was fractured because he punched me in my face.”
The environment in which he grew up was a decisive factor in his later incarceration, according to Mill.
“I probably would have gotten killed or went to jail because I was destined,” he said. “That’s what my neighborhood was about.”
Mill chose to carry a firearm without a license for self-protection when he was a teenager, leading to his imprisonment in 2009, he said.
“At the age of 18, I chose to start carrying a firearm, I wasn’t old enough to get my firearm license and people was just dying in my neighborhood on a daily basis,” Mill said. “That’s just what it was and I made the decision that I would want to try and protect myself if I ever encounter that type of situation.”
Mill started selling drugs to pay for a lawyer better than the public defender the government would have provided him with.
“I didn’t have a public defender. Actually, I had to actually turn to selling drugs, to actually do what they said I was doing,” Mill said. “I turned to start selling marijuana because I knew if I went to prison with a public defender, I would probably lose my freedom for sure, for 100 percent sure.”
Judges and police officers should be evaluated on regular basis, according to Mill.
“Judges should be evaluated. Police officers should be mentally evaluated. Anybody that has authority over the next person’s life should be evaluated at least on a six-month basis.”
Tuesday’s midterms elections were good for candidates that support criminal justice reform, especially in his home state of Pennsylvania, Mill said in an interview with The Hoya.
“You’re seeing a lot of people that supported reform’s numbers went up,” Mill said. “In Pennsylvania, our governor, he ran his campaign off of reform and reform was a major topic in his campaign and I think it will continue to grow stronger and stronger. America has never been in this season of reform as much as it is and I think it will continue to have an effect on all politics.”