Philly-born rapper Meek Mill, behind bars for probation violations, got support Monday from the Rev. Al Sharpton, who visited the rapper at the state prison in Chester and emerged pledging to use his clout to help Mill and other prisoners stand up to the criminal justice system.
“He’s representative of many people in institutions like this, that do little or nothing,” Sharpton told a gaggle of reporters on the side of a busy highway across from SCI-Chester following the two-hour meeting. “They are violated and their lives and businesses are ruined. If you can do this to a successful artist like Meek Mill, you can do this to many around the country.”
The activist’s news conference was held along the roadway because state Corrections Secretary John Wetzel would not let reporters stand on state property, prison officials said.
Sharpton said that Mill was not in solitary confinement and appeared to be doing well under the circumstances. “He seemed very strong, he seemed very determined. He does not seem bitter,” said Sharpton, who was accompanied by Mill’s attorney Joe Tacopina. “He’s worried about his son. He wanted to make sure his son and mother are all right.”
Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, and Tacopina reiterated their stance that Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley should reconsider her decision earlier this month to sentence Mill to two to four years in prison, and that she should recuse herself from the case. If the judge does not respond by Dec. 5 to legal motions asking her to do so, they said, they will ask a higher court to rule on the matter.
Brinkley had sentenced the rapper for violating his probation from a 2008 drug-and-gun conviction. In sentencing Mill, she said, “I gave you break after break, and you basically just thumbed your nose at this court.”
But Sharpton said the reasons cited by Brinkley for imprisoning Mill were petty non-crimes. “For him to be facing two to four years for that, noncriminal violations, is absolutely unthinkable,” Sharpton said. “But this is the way it operates in Pennsylvania for many, and this is the way it operates nationwide. He said, ‘If you don’t do anything else, Reverend, please speak for people. It’s not just about me.’”
Sharpton said he considered it important to meet with Mill because the imprisoned rapper is among thousands of inmates nationwide who “have been victimized by abusive probationary and parole systems that give room for judges to act way beyond what is necessary, what is palpable and, in my judgment, what is ethical — to throw peoples’ lives away.”