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Virginia governor signs probation reform bill alongside rapper Meek Mill

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday signed a bill providing for judicial restrictions on probation terms in his state. The legislation won backing from rapper and criminal justice advocate Meek Mill, who in 2019 overcame a 12-year court case on misdemeanor charges that ended in both jail and probation.

“I have the resources and I am able to do better to help,” Meek Mill said Thursday during a press conference. “I will make sure that I will be able to deliver and close all the bridges that I can to help fix the system because I have been affected by this.”

The bill comes into force on July 1 and limits the number of “active incarcerations” that a court can impose for violating a person’s probation conditions. It requires a court to “measure any period of sentence suspension from the date of entry of the original sentencing order” and limits supervised probation to a maximum of five years for felony charges and one year. for misdemeanors.

Previously, Virginia was one of seven states with no details on the length of active surveillance or the number of people who could be incarcerated for minor offenses.

“Our criminal justice system has been unfair for too long,” Northam said Thursday. “Too many crimes result in long sentences which outweigh the gravity of the offense and this has resulted in far too many people – especially too many people of color – in our jails and prisons.”

Meek Mill, whose legal name is Robert Williams, was stopped in 2007 on gun and drug charges. In 2017, he served five months in prison for probation violations. The following year, he was released on bail by a Pennsylvania appeals court and a new trial. His case was ultimately dismissed, all charges being dropped in 2019.

“I have seen people marching and defending me and with the support of all of you I will continue to do better than what I started,” he said on Thursday.

In 2019, Meek Mill partnered with Philadelphia 76ers partner Michael Rubin and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z to create Reform Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing reform of the criminal justice.

An estimated 4.5 million people across the country were on parole or probation in 2020, according to a Human Rights Watch study. The study found that most of those serving sentences for surveillance offenses had not been convicted of new offenses.

“We know this system was put in place on the basis of outright racism,” said Virginia House delegate Don Scott, who sponsored the bill. “It was put in place to get us and keep us from maximizing power and doing what God has given us the talent to do.”


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