Iconic rapper Jay-Z has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of Philly rapper Meek Mill's recent re-imprisonment on probation violations. He interrupted a recent concert in Dallas to address the case. And on Friday, Hova took the battle to another level when drew on his most fearsome instrument: the pen.
"Probation is a trap and we must fight for Meek and everyone else unjustly sent to prison," Jay-Z wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times on Nov. 17.
Meek Mill remains imprisoned on a two-to-four year sentence for three recent probation violations, but over the weekend, he was moved into the general population at Camp Hill state prison, TMZ reported. He was previously isolated in "protective custody," which is used for high-profile inmates.
Rumors that the the rapper would get an emergency bail hearing on Monday, Nov. 20, were proven false, and based on a clerical error. Meek's defense attorney, Joe Tacopina, recently told Metro he is seeking new bail and filing for reconsideration of the sentence, in addition to demanding Meek's judge be recused from the case.
But in his op-ed, Jay-Z targeted the entire probation system. He wrote that some 4.65 million Americans are on parole or probation, and one-third of them are black.
"What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day," Jigga wrote.
Jay-Z is the owner of a Roc Nation management, which has recently paid for billboards and a bus circling Center City with the message "Stand with Meek Mill," urging fans to sign the Justice4Meek.com petition.
Jay-Z said Meek's case reminds him of his experiences growing up in Brooklyn in the '70s and '80s, where probation was a "land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime."
Meek Mill, 31, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, remains on probation for a 2008 gun possession case for which he previously served eight months in prison. His original sentence came with five years of probation, but it was prolonged due to previous probation violations that saw him jailed for five months in 2014 and on house arrest for 90 days the following year.
Two weeks ago, Judge Genece Brinkley ordered him to serve two to four years for the three recent violations.
Meek's lawyers say the recent violations were minor -- two of them involve arrests for which the original charges were dropped -- and have also accused Brinkley of harboring a personal vendetta against the rapper (the judge has not commented on those allegations).
But Jay-Z's op-ed links the case to the systemic mass incarceration of African Americans and other people of color in the US.
"He has been on probation for basically his entire adult life. For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside."
"Taxpayers in Philadelphia, Meek Mill’s hometown, will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to keep him locked up, and I bet none of them would tell you his imprisonment is helping to keep them safer."
"The specifics of Meek’s case inspired me to write this. But it's time we highlight the random ways people trapped in the criminal justice system are punished every day. The system treats them as a danger to society, consistently monitors and follows them for any minor infraction — with the goal of putting them back in prison."
Read the full op-ed in the New York Times.