NEW YORK – Sports and entertainment figures including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael Rubin, recording artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z, and recording artist Meek Mill announced the foundation of a criminal justice reform organization called REFORM Alliance.
The organization was conceived after Rubin arranged a meeting between Kraft and Meek Mill last spring, when the artist was in prison for a highly controversial probation violation that generated extensive media coverage and calls for change.
“After meeting him in jail, I felt affection for him,” Kraft said. “We had developed a nice relationship. And I’ve never been to jail before. Going there and seeing him, I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night when I got home. Because here I’m thinking how out of touch something like myself is with what’s really going on.”
In a news conference and presentation Wednesday at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the co-founders explained their goals and initiatives, which includes removing one million people from the criminal justice system within five years.
“We give to charitable things and we try to do good,” Kraft continued. “But here you have (Meek Mill), who’s creative, who’s innovative, who’s inspiring to young people. And for riding a motorcycle and doing a wheelie, he’s put in jail where tax payers are paying to keep him going, and he’s not employing all the people he could be employing and generating all of the tax dollars he could do. It’s just a cuckoo system – forgetting the social impact of that.
“I decided then that I wanted to work with Michael and Meek to do whatever we could to try to change the system. It’s not good for America. And I’m happy I had the chance and the exposure to see it. It’s just crazy. I hope everyone in this room gets behind this effort, and we can make America better if we really deal with this problem.”
The group announced political commentator and social activist Van Jones as its CEO. Jones said the organization seeks to “change the laws and the policies” that have furthered a cycle of parole violations and incarcerations for some of those recently released from prison.
Other co-founders include Daniel Loeb, CEO and founder of Third Point LLC, Michael E. Novogratz, CEO and founder of Galaxy Digital, Clara Wu Tsai, co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets, and Robert F. Smith, CEO and founder of Vista Equity Partners.
Together, the founders have devoted $50 million to the organization.
“For me, I’m from Marcy Projects,” Jay-Z said. “I’m from Brooklyn, and this has been a part of my life. This is communities that we grew up in, friends that I have, people around me. So I grew up with this issue and seeing people in it.
“We’re all prisoners to this. Because until everyone is free, no one is free.”
By Lorenzo Reyes
Source: USA Today