REFORM Alliance, the criminal justice reform organization co-founded by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, rapper Meek Mill, entrepreneur Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, is celebrating its first significant legislative victory this week: a probation reform bill signed into law by California’s governor.
“It’s an incredible step forward in fixing our broken probation system,” Rubin told Yahoo News in a video interview. “Today there's 6.7 million people in the criminal justice system, 4.5 million people on probation and 2.2 million in prison. There's been so much good work done on fixing some of the problems on the prison and jail issues, but there's been really nobody focused on how do you fix probation? How do you fix parole?”
AB 1950, signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, will limit adult probation sentences to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and two years for felony offenses. Advocates argue that the change will reduce needless probation violations.
“Americans across the country took to the streets this summer rightfully demanding more and better of our criminal justice system — and of ourselves,” Newsom said in a statement. “We heard those calls for action loud and clear.”
REFORM Alliance was inspired by Philadelphia-native Mill’s personal experiences with the probation system. Mill has spent his entire adult life on probation, going in and out of prison for technical violations without committing a crime.
“The REFORM Alliance has a goal of getting a minimum of 1 million people that don't belong in the system out of the system within five years from when we started at the beginning of 2019,” Rubin said. “There's been tons of research that's proven once someone's after a year or two on probation, there's really no incremental benefit. There's just lots of costs. So what we want to do is help people that are on probation to truly rehabilitate themselves and move forward in life and step forward and not focus on just keeping people stuck in the system.”
Rubin hopes this California bill will push other states to also change probation and parole laws.
“As an owner of a sports team or successful person in business, you have a huge responsibility to make a difference,” said Rubin, a part-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. “And for me, I can tell you, sometimes you need a moment that opens your mind. To be honest, it was sitting in court with Meek three years ago when I watched a good friend of mine, who didn't commit a crime, get sent to prison for two to four years. And that's what got me on such a mission to help change the broken probation and parole laws. But I can tell you that the players alone, they can't get things changed without the help of everyone coming together the same way.”
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