This week, Meek Mill was sentenced to up to four years in prison for a petty probation violation-riding a dirt bike.
The judge who sent Meek to prison, Judge Genece Brinkley, went against the recommendation of the assistant district attorney AND the probation officer. She sentenced Meek to two to four years in prison for insignificant probation violations on a case from nearly a DECADE ago. Meek was arrested twice but hadn’t even been convicted of any new crime–and BOTH cases were eventually dropped or dismissed.1
Nothing about Meek is a risk to public safety – in fact, he’s contributed to society through his community service and activism.2 So why did Brinkley throw Meek into a cage yet again–for two to four years?
Even worse, Meek’s lawyers make strong allegations against Brinkley and her enormous personal bias against Meek–going as far to request that he leave Roc Nation and sign with a friend of hers and asking Meek to remake a Boyz II Men song with a shout out to her.2
Judge Brinkley needs to step aside.
She’s more than just a bad apple–she’s part of a system that is terrorizing and entrapping Black people every day. The public outcry against Brinkley’s decision has been enormous. We have a real chance to get justice not only for Meek but for the other Black and brown people who are under the same oppressive structures but with nowhere near the resources to get free. Will you sign the petition?
Meek has been on probation since he was 19 years old–his entire adult life. And his situation is not uncommon. The state has the second highest rate of people on probation or parole in the country and Philly has the highest incarceration rate of the 10 largest US cities, with half of the people sitting in jail because of probation or parole violations.3
The system is literally following Black people around for years just waiting for the day to justify putting us back in cages. Strip away the fame and fortune, and far too many of us recognize Meek’s story from our own lives. We’ve seen family and community members endlessly monitored by the system and stolen from us for the slightest mistakes. Hundreds of people have shared similar stories under the hashtag #StillNotFree in the wake of Meek’s sentencing.4
Probation is supposed to be an alternative to prison that allows people to move on from their mistakes and make a better life–but what it really means is that you are under the watchful eye of the state for years, and sometimes decades. Similar to the slavery-era reform of “sharecropping,” probation is like signing a contract for your freedom but the contract has tiny fine print at the bottom that essentially guarantees you will never truly be free.
As soon as you are put on probation, you are given restrictions called “conditions” that you must adhere to or else risk a violation of your probation. Probation violations are treated harshly by our system, yielding tougher punishments for minor infractions–like being late to meetings, traveling out of town for work, and sometimes even being homeless–that you would never see prison time for if you weren’t on probation at all.5
In Meek’s case, Judge Brinkley made it hard for him to live a normal life while on probation by limiting which cities he could travel too, many of which were a part of his tour. In 2014 Judge Brinkley ordered Meek to take etiquette classes and put him in jail for five months–where he spent most of the time in solitary confinement–for performing in a state without getting her permission to travel there.6
Judge Genece Brinkley could use her power to help people change their lives–instead, she chooses to send people to prison without just cause over and over again.
Until justice is real,
–Scott, Rashad, Arisha, Clarise, Anay, Kristen, and the rest of the Color Of Change team
1. “Judge ignores recommendation, sends Meek Mill to prison,” NY Daily News, 6 November 2017
2.“Meek Mill’s Attorney Says Judge told rapper to leave Roc Nation, sign with her friend“, Billboard, 7 November 2017.
“Meek Mill’s Lawyer Says Judge Showed ‘Enormous Bias’ in Sentencing”, The New York Times, 7 November 2017
3. “How Minor Probation Violations Can Lead to Major Jail Time,” Atlantic, 9 June 2017
5. “Escaping the detention trap,” City & State PA, 27 June, 2016
6. “Rapper Meek Mill ordered to take etiquette classes”, NY Daily News, 30 June 2013.