On Wednesday (Jan. 23), Meek Mill and Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin launched their REFORM Alliance Foundation at New York City’s John Jay College to help raise awareness for criminal justice reform.
On hand to join Meek and Rubin were REFORM’s founding fathers, headlined by Jay-Z and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The esteemed group all shared one common goal: exonerating wrongly convicted inmates and providing them with a second chance at life.
“This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, it’s really about right and wrong,” Rubin said during his speech at the press conference. “We need to really make sure the punishments actually fit the crime and we don’t have people stuck in the system because of illogical laws that make no sense.”
Last year, Rubin played an instrumental role in Meek’s quest for freedom. In November 2017, the Roc Nation MC faced a two- to four-year sentence after a Philadelphia judge found him guilty of violating a decade-old gun and drug case. During his six-month prison stint, Rubin visited Meek 15 times before he was finally released in April the following year. There, Rubin picked up Meek in a helicopter and escorted him to the 76ers playoff game, where he would ring the ceremonial bell, ushering in his newfound freedom.
“I think the attention that Meek brought to this issue is because of his celebrity and the egregiousness of the crime — popping a wheelie and breaking up a bike — is what sparked the match for the nation,” Jay-Z said during the discussion. “He had to work hard and we have to applaud him, because every setback he came out stronger and that really takes a dedicated person.”
In addition to the notable criminal justice activists teaming up with Meek and Rubin, CNN host Van Jones was appointed CEO of the newly launched initiative. Jones, who has over 25 years of experience in fighting for criminal justice reform, made several poignant points when addressing REFORM’s desire to implement change expeditiously.
“Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs, if you use them right,” said Jones, who later revealed that the founders would be raising $50 million to help the cause. “We are not as an alliance going to get lawyers, millions and millions of lawyers for anyone. We’ve determined that would be an inefficient use of the capital. Instead of trying to get lawyers for anyone, we’re going to try to change the laws and the policies.”
REFORM is looking to reduce the prison population by freeing 1 million people over the next five years. Though the task will be an arduous one, REFORM will their resources to amplify the voices of the voiceless. “I’m one of the lucky ones. We have people who don’t have a voice,” Meek said. “I’m here to speak on behalf of those people who don’t have a voice.
This article originally appeared on Billboard.