I’m not familiar at all with the rapper Meek Mill. I’m not a listener of rap music, and I had never heard of Mill until his story became a national sensation. That story has become a lesson about the need for criminal justice reform, but also about how the mainstream media twists the facts in order to get readers and viewers to see the matter how they want them to see it.
Convicted in 2008 of gun possession and drug charges, Mill served seven months in prison and was given probation of ten years. That seems an excessively long probation. Ten years for a crime that got him seven months in prison? But, I admit, I’m not a prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, or have any experience with the criminal justice system to say one way or the other. Mill was arrested twice in 2017 and, as a result, was put back in prison to serve a sentence of between two and four years for violating his probation. Mill’s supporters claim that he’s been treated unfairly by the criminal justice system because he’s black. But, Genece Brinkley, the judge who has handled Mill’s case from the beginning, who handed down his original sentence in 2008 and who put him back in prison last year, has a reputation for being a tough judge. Her counselor has said of her, “What you have hear is a tough judge but she’s tough across the board. She’s tough on everybody.” Brinkley is also African-American.
Here is how NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt reported on the story. The video is toward the bottom of the link.
The story, as told by NBC, is that “Even though he hasn’t been convicted of a crime, he’s back in prison.” Yes, he’s back in prison because if you’re on probation, you don’t have to be convicted of a crime to go back to prison. You simply have to violate your probation. Mill did violate his probation. NBC reports that Mill was popping wheelies on his motorcycle and “was also involved in a separate altercation,” but they don’t report what that altercation was. Why? Well, because they don’t want you to know. The “separate altercation” was that Mill was arrested for fighting in the St. Louis airport. The charges in both cases were dismissed. Even still, NBC says, “Judge Genece Brinkley found him in technical violation of his probation.” When NBC says Mill was found to be in technical violation of his probation, they mean that he was found to be in violation of his probation.
NBC goes on the say that Mill, who over the years has become a very successful rapper, has received support from many celebrities. This means, of course, that he should be released from prison, because celebrities would never support the cause of someone who shouldn’t be released from prison, and because celebrities are important people, so we should listen to them and do what they recommend. NBC reports that Jay-Z wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, the headline of which read, “Jay-Z: The Criminal Justice System Stalks Black Men Like Meek Mill.” That may be true. Only the most myopic would deny that black men receive harsher sentences than white men, and that they’re far more likely to be given prison time, or even the death penalty, for crimes for which white men receive probation, suspended sentences, or life in prison. Larry Krasner, the newly-elected District Attorney of Philadelphia, Mill’s home, says frankly in his interview with Holt that, “Across the board African-Americans are ending up with worse sentences over and over than white people, even if you control for the type of offense.”
But, again, the judge who has handled Mill’s case from the beginning, Genece Brinkley, is black. Are we to assume that she’s racist? Are we to assume that the laws by which she put Mill in prison after violation of his probation required her to do so precisely because he is black? Oh, and NBC conveniently forgot to mention that, on top of his two arrests in 2017, Judge Brinkley also cited Mill for failing a drug test and violating the travel restrictions of his probation. NBC also fails to report that Mill was arrested and spent time in jail or house arrest for probation violations in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Why does NBC not report this? Because they don’t want you to know. They want you to come to the conclusion that poor Mill was put in prison by an unreasonably strict judge because he is a black man who was popping wheelies on his motorcycle.
There is simply no excuse for the biased reporting on the part of NBC. This is only one more in a long list of examples of how the media have surrendered any pretense of objectivity, and how they choose to report what they want us to know in order to lead us to the “correct” conclusion.
Having said all of that, I will also say this: While it may not necessarily be unjust that Meek Mill is in prison, I think it’s stupid and counterproductive.
Mill obviously learned little from his stints in prison and house arrest for his previous probation violations. Why does anyone think he’ll suddenly learn from his current imprisonment? While Mill obviously has a great deal of potential for making a positive impact on society, he’s not going to learn to do that from behind the walls of a prison. This is a man who needs the kind of help that will turn his life around. He needs the kind of help that will encourage him and teach him how to make better choices. Prison will do none of that. It didn’t do that for him in 2012, 2014, or 2016. It likely won’t do it for him now. All that prison will likely do is harden him and his supporters against a criminal justice system that is genuinely in sore need of reform. I don’t believe that Meek Mill is back in prison because he’s black. I believe he’s back in prison because society and our criminal justice system don’t know what to do with young men who have a pattern of making poor choices, quite likely because they grew up in an environment where making poor choices was the norm rather than the exception. Mill’s celebrities friends should be dedicated, not only to advocating for his release, but for making it possible for him to get the help he needs.
As it turns out, Mill may be released sooner rather than later, after all. NBC reports that the arresting officer in Mill’s original 2008 case has been placed on a list of police officers that prosecutors have deemed “too unreliable to testify.” Does this mean that Mill’s original arrest was an injustice? Perhaps. Or, does it mean that Mill will be released on a technicality? Perhaps. Either way, it seems Mill will be released. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope, too, that his friends and supporters will use this opportunity to help Mill become the kind of role model he says he wants to be.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.