Reform Alliance seeks to represent tough cases in push for probation reform

Cherri Gregg
August 06, 2019 - 2:11 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — While rapper Meek Mill attended a status hearing for his drug and gun case on Tuesday, supporters outside rallied for change — and not just for his case.

"The purpose is to help more than just Meek Mill," explained Monique Haughton Worrell, chief legal officer for the Reform Alliance, the organization backed by Mill, Jay-Z and Sixers partner Michael Rubin.

Supporters have pledged $50 million to the Reform Alliance to lobby for probation and parole reform. Over the next five years, it promises to help and free 1 million people who are unjustly stuck in the criminal justice system.

"Many people have said, well, Meek Mill is a superstar, and that is why his case is getting thrown out," said Haughton Worrell, "but the fact is there are more Meek Mills out there, and we want to find who they are."

Although the organization cannot guarantee representation, it is looking for specific types of cases to take on.

"If there is someone who has a probation or parole violation case; that they have been placed on probation or parole for an excessive amount of time; or if they were violated for technical reasons and are facing jail or prison time," said Haughton Worrell, "please reach out to us."

Related: Meek Mill retrial decision rescheduled to later this month

Reform Alliance is starting its outreach efforts in Pennsylvania, then it'll take on Georgia.

"We are hoping to bring more cases to light," Haughton Worrell added.

Jasir Cooke
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio
For those gathered outside the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice Tuesday, their outreach efforts underscore the fact that advocacy works.

When Mill's case was thrown out, 17-year-old Jasir Cooke said he felt hopeful that the system can change.

Cooke, who lives in Malvern, said he lives in fear of police, afraid he'll get caught in the system.

"Because you're a black guy in a predominantly white neighborhood," he added. "Your skin always crawls because anything could happen."

But watching the justice system shift before his eyes has made him pay attention.

"The future will be brighter for us all," he said. "These rules that overly restrict black men, they are loosening."

Protesters continued to chant "Free Meek, Free Meek" outside the courthouse, and the 32-year-old rapper simply waved on his way out to his supporters.

"Thank y'all, thanks everybody," he said, then left in a black van.

A decision on whether Mill will receive a retrial has been delayed until later this month.

Supporters agreed that they will keep their foot on the gas and continue to push for criminal justice reform.

"We have to fight," added Haughton Worrell, "and when we fight, we win."