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Meek Mill, Jay-Z and sports owners back justice reforms

Published
Recording artist Meek Mill, right, speaks about his incarceration along with Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin at the launch of REFORM Alliance, a partnership among entertainment moguls, entrepreneurs, recording artists, and business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK (AP) — A coalition of big names in sports and entertainment pledged their high-profile platforms and $50 million on Wednesday at the launch of an organization that will lobby for changes to state probation and parole laws.

Rapper Meek Mill, whose well-publicized prison sentence for minor probation violations became a lightning rod for the issue, was joined at a New York City news conference by fellow rapper Jay-Z and the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots to announce the formation of the Reform Alliance.

"I'm here to speak for all the people who don't have a voice," Mill said, who remains on probation until 2023, and actually had to get permission to attend the event to avoid getting another violation. He pointed out that his original arrest and conviction was over a decade ago.

Mill became a symbol for criminal justice reform activists after a judge in Pennsylvania sentenced him to 2-4 years in prison for minor violations of his probation conditions in that decade-old gun and drug possession case. He spent months in prison before a court ordered him released, with visitors like Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner and Michael Rubin, co-owner of the 76ers.

The current system "is not good for America," Kraft said. "We can make America better if we really cure this problem."

The Reform Alliance will be led by Van Jones, a CNN host and activist who at one point served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama.

About 2.2 million people in the U.S. are incarcerated, and about 4.5 million are on probation or parole, according to government statistics.

Jones said the Reform Alliance is taking aim at the cycle of probation and parole violations that leads people back to prison.

"That is the revolving door that keeps people back in and back in and back in," Jones said. "We're going to dismantle that revolving door."

He said the efforts would be toward educating the public and legislators about how people are impacted, how minor issues like missing an appointment can have huge repercussions, in an effort to swing momentum toward legislative policy change. He said the organization's efforts would start in Pennsylvania and New York.

Jay-Z said that he has seen this issue impact a lot of people and their families throughout his life.

"For us, this is how we grew up," he said. "We're all prisoners to this, until everyone's free, no one's free."

Rapper and business mogul Shawn
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, listens as Victory Boyd performs on stage at the launch of a partnership of entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. The group is called REFORM Alliance. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Entrepreneur and business mogul Shawn
REFORM Alliance CEO and political activist Van Jones speaks to participants at the launch of a partnership among entrepreneurs, entertainment moguls, recording artists, and business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. Jones is a former CNN host and was an adviser to president Barack Obama. Jones said,
Entrepreneur and recording artist Shawn
Entrepreneur ad recording artist Shawn
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, and Philadelphia 76ers owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin, second from left, listen to recording artist Meek Mill talk abut being incarcerated at the launch of Reform Alliance, a partnership among entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive Michael Rubin, left, listens as recordng artist Meek Mill speaks at the launch of a partnership of sports, business and recording artists who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
REFORM Alliance CEO and political activist Van Jones speaks to participants at the launch of a partnership among entrepreneurs, entertainment moguls, recording artists, and business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. Jones is a former CNN host and was an adviser to president Barack Obama. Jones said,
REFORM Alliance CEO and political activist Van Jones speaks to participants at the launch of a partnership among entrepreneurs, entertainment moguls, recording artists, and business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. Jones is a former CNN host and was an adviser to president Barack Obama. Jones said, "I'm thrilled to join forces with the team of incredible leaders at REFORM to free as many human bengs as possible who are unjustly trapped by mass supervision." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Entrepreneur and recording artist Shawn
Entrepreneur and recording artist Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, from left, poses with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin, recording artist Meek Mill, Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael Novogratz, Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, Third Point CEO and founder Daniel S. Loeb, and REFORM Alliance CEO and political activist Van Jones after the group announced a partnership to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Rapper and business mogul Shawn
Rapper and business mogul Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, left, speaks as Michael Novogratz, founder and CEO Galaxy Digital, listens during the launch of a partnership among entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. The group, called the Reform Alliance, will be led by Van Jones, a CNN host, activist and former adviser to President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, listens as Victory Boyd performs on stage at the launch of a partnership of entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. The group is called REFORM Alliance. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, listens as Victory Boyd performs on stage at the launch of a partnership of entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. The group is called REFORM Alliance. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, and Philadelphia 76ers owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin, second from left, listen to recording artist Meek Mill talk abut being incarcerated at the launch of Reform Alliance, a partnership among entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, and Philadelphia 76ers owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin, second from left, listen to recording artist Meek Mill talk abut being incarcerated at the launch of Reform Alliance, a partnership among entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Entrepreneur ad recording artist Shawn
Entrepreneur ad recording artist Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, from left, gestures as he poses with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin, recording artist Meek Mill, Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael Novogratz, Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, Third Point CEO and founder Daniel S. Loeb, and REFORM Alliance CEO and political activist Van Jones after the group announced a partnership to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive Michael Rubin, left, listens as recordng artist Meek Mill speaks at the launch of a partnership of sports, business and recording artists who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive Michael Rubin, left, listens as recordng artist Meek Mill speaks at the launch of a partnership of sports, business and recording artists who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Entrepreneur and business mogul Shawn
Entrepreneur and business mogul Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter left, speaks to Michael Novogratz, founder and CEO of Galaxy Digital, during the launch of REFORM Alliance, a partnership among entertainment moguls, recording artists, business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. The group is led by Van Jones, a CNN host, activist and former adviser to President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Recording artist Meek Mill, right, speaks about his incarceration along with Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin at the launch of REFORM Alliance, a partnership among entertainment moguls, entrepreneurs, recording artists, and business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Recording artist Meek Mill, right, speaks about his incarceration along with Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin at the launch of REFORM Alliance, a partnership among entertainment moguls, entrepreneurs, recording artists, and business and sports leaders who hope to transform the American criminal justice system, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)