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November 17, 2017

"The Criminal Justice System Stalks Black People Like Meek Mill"

The title of this post is the headline of this New York Times op-ed authored by Jay-Z. Here are excerpts:

This month Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating his probation. #FreeMeek hashtags have sprung up, and hundreds of his fans rallied near City Hall in Philadelphia to protest the ruling.

On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started. But consider this: Meek was around 19 when he was convicted on charges relating to drug and gun possession, and he served an eight-month sentence.  Now he’s 30, so he has been on probation for basically his entire adult life. For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside.

What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day.  I saw this up close when I was growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime. A person on probation can end up in jail over a technical violation like missing a curfew.

Taxpayers in Philadelphia, Meek Mill’s hometown, will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to keep him locked up, and I bet none of them would tell you his imprisonment is helping to keep them safer. He’s there because of arrests for a parole violation, and because a judge overruled recommendations by a prosecutor and his probation officer that he doesn’t deserve more jail time....

Look at what he’s being punished for now: In March, he was arrested after an altercation in a St. Louis airport. After video of what had actually happened was released, all charges were dropped against Meek. In August, he was arrested for popping a wheelie on a motorcycle on his video set in New York.  Those charges were dismissed after he agreed to attend traffic school. Think about that.  The charges were either dropped or dismissed, but the judge sent him to prison anyway....

[I]t’s time we highlight the random ways people trapped in the criminal justice system are punished every day. The system treats them as a danger to society, consistently monitors and follows them for any minor infraction — with the goal of putting them back in prison.

As of 2015, one-third of the 4.65 million Americans who were on some form of parole or probation were black. Black people are sent to prison for probation and parole violations at much higher rates than white people.  In Pennsylvania, hundreds of thousands of people are on probation or parole.  About half of the people in city jails in Philadelphia are there for probation or parole violations.  We could literally shut down jails if we treated people on parole or probation more fairly....  Probation is a trap and we must fight for Meek and everyone else unjustly sent to prison.

Prior related post:

November 17, 2017 at 10:03 AM | Permalink


When I discussed probation and parole sharking, one person was a working white male, another was a white female. I believe, the sole bias is in favor of squeezing money. While he is black, he is also well to do.

The above article emphasizes prison employment as a factor. I am emphasizing pure cash as a motive.

I am going to ask staff to survey people, to find more cases. Will report back.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 17, 2017 2:55:01 PM

This is not only true for those on probation or parole, but also sex offenders who are supposedly free from "restrictions", but can wind up in jail or prison for actions that are deemed OK for most every other American.

We have a great "Justus" system here in America. A government of the government for the police and by the prosecutor, all for extorting money from both "criminals" and ordinary citizens to keep us "safe", so that said agents are overcompensated for their contributions to society.

I call b-llsh-t! Enough is Enough.

Posted by: albeed | Nov 18, 2017 8:15:56 AM

Meek Mill was sentenced to prison for this violation over the objections of the prosecutor and probation officer by a BLACK JUDGE who is now the subject of an FBI investigation into possible conflict of interest and other issues arising from the sentencing, including her urging of Meek Mill to change his professional representation to a local Philadelphia music figure.

Jay-Z is a tool who is doing a great disservice to the very real issue of racial inequity in the justice system by using this case.

Posted by: USPO-Retired | Nov 18, 2017 10:28:22 AM

USPO. I would like to know if you have witnessed parole sharking in the federal government.

Its elements are:

1) Pending end of probation or parole in less than 6 months;

2) Gotcha on a very trivial or even false infraction (borrowing a vacuum from one's mother is not a crime): 

3) huge fines, perhaps larger than justified by the original crime, along with seizures of possession in civil forfeiture; 

4) no hearing, no lawyer advocacy, no argument before a judge;

5) long extensions of probation or parole, potentially exceeding the term for the original crime. 

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 18, 2017 11:02:09 AM

The word, "element," in the above legalistic comment violates the Establishment Clause, being borrowed from the catechism analysis of mortal sin. Defense people, its utterance should trigger a motion for a mistrial in any tribunal.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 18, 2017 11:06:57 AM


I NEVER saw ( in 28 years) anyone get a fine on a violation. I'm not even sure that a fine is an authorized sanction.

In the federal system, nobody can be taken into into custody without a judge first issuing a warrant, and it is not possible to violate an offender without a hearing. An offender can agree to a non-custodial modification of conditions without a hearing (like adding drug treatment)for example. And a favorable modification can be made without a hearing (expanding travel permission, for example)

I saw my share of "technical violations" (like failing to submit a monthly report), but I never once had an officer recommend custody for such a thing (and I was a supervisor for 25 of my 28 years).

There are such robust protections in federal court that to parole shark someone, you would need the complicity of the PO, the AUSA, the Judge and the defense attorney. And even if somehow this happened, a pro se letter from the offender to the Appeals Court would undo it. So you'd also have to have an offender who magically never comes into contact with any jailhouse lawyers.

Posted by: USPO-Retired | Nov 18, 2017 12:44:11 PM

Thanks, USPO. Your answer is reassuring.

No legal procedure took place whatsoever. Only the PO's and their supervisors were involved. I do not know where the money went. Both my cases were under Pennsylvania county jurisdiction. I had two cases, a female and a male, both white. The "fees" were $3500 for the female, and $8000, for the male trucker. They appear to be by ability to pay. Both were addicts. They did not relapse. However, they knew how to get money when they needed it. Not doubt, Meek has spent $millions, being able to afford that.

I may submit Right to Know Law requests about where these 'fees" are going.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 18, 2017 12:57:58 PM

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