Rapper Meek Mill got some bad news on Monday when a Philadelphia judged sentenced him to two to four years in prison for a probation violation. The ex-boyfriend of Nicki Minaj has had several run-ins with the law following a 2009 gun charge: probation violations in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 were followed by an assault charge in St. Louis and a reckless driving arrest in New York. He has also failed at least one of his mandatory drug tests and failed to comply with travel restrictions set by Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley. She handed down the unexpected prison sentence against the recommendation of prosecutors. Now, a host of other celebrities, including Jay-Z, are speaking out on Meek’s behalf and condemning the sentence.
People rounded up a list of big names who felt Meek’s sentence was an injustice, most notable among them, a statement from Jay-Z calling the sentence “unjust and heavy-handed.” Not only does Jay’s company, Roc Nation, manage Meek, the hip-hop giant has been extremely vocal about his issues with the criminal justice system. He and wife Beyoncé have donated substantial amounts to Black Lives Matter organisations, and he was an executive producer on the limited docuseries Time: The Kalief Browder Story, which partially blames a flawed justice system for Browder’s unjust imprisonment and subsequent suicide. It makes total sense that Jay isn’t likely to support another Black body being shuffled into prison. And while I agree with the mogul’s assessment that Meek's sentence is heavy-handed, I’m not sure I’m willing to go to bat for it being unjust.
None of Meek Mill’s infractions this year warrant such a hefty sentence. The charges brought against him in St. Louis and New York were dropped in exchange for him performing community service, and the prosecutor wasn’t pursuing such action. According to the Fader, Meek’s lawyer is accusing Judge Brinkley of letting her “hostile relationship” with the rapper influence her decision. I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but even if it is, the fact remains that some combination of his arrests, failed drug tests and travel infractions were probation violations. And a judge with your freedom in her hands, who may or may not like you all that much, is all the more reason to stay on a straight and narrow. It’s possible that she threw the book at him to prove a point that his celebrity didn’t put him above the law. Under our current criminal justice system, the state of Pennsylvania empowered Judge Brinkley to make those kind of decisions.
The question of whether or not that power is being used to enforce the rules of a problematic system is still important, though. Meek’s arrest is just another example of the justice system’s tendency to send Black bodies into the prison industrial complex. The frustration of this reality seems to be at the forefront of the outrage from Meek's supporters. And on that front, they are completely justified.