Meek Mill (Robert Rihmeek Williams) has been my favorite rapper since approximately 2009, but that’s not the only reason I am writing today. The criminal justice system in the United States is one of our country’s most fatal errors, and it costs every single one of us.
Although Meek has recently been released from prison, this clearly isn’t the “end-all” for the issues caused by our criminal justice system.
In the United States, the incarceration rate exceeds every single other country in the world.
Sadly, this is not hyperbole in the least bit.
Not only do we have the most people in prison, but we also have the highest percentage of individuals in prison in the world as well.
Many of these people, such as my favorite rapper, were in prison for crimes that come without a victim.
In fact, many are in prison for crimes which morally would not even be considered a “crime.”
Not only is the current criminal justice system in America costing Meek Mill the opportunity to live his life to the fullest, but it costs us his positive impact on our country.
Musicians- whether rappers, pop singers, country music artists, rock bands, or any other genre, can impact our society as much as the President.
With the potential that Meek has shown through the previous 4-5 years of his life to help guide inner-city youth away from the troubles he was in growing up, it is dangerously wrong to keep people like this in prison.
Below, I will explain my thoughts on why Meek Mill should not have been in prison in the first place, as well as dive deeper into the need for our country to completely overturn the current criminal justice system.
Seeing Meek Mill released from jail has been a microcosm of criminal justice system reform in America, and it is one step that our country needs to extrapolate on to correct one of our most fatal flaws.
The Cost of The Current Criminal Justice System
Before I even talk about the current situation with Meek Mill, I believe it is important for everyone to understand exactly how much our current criminal justice system is costing the citizens of the United States.
There are many ways I could go with this “case study,” but (rightfully so) I know most people care about the amount of money in their bank accounts more than anything else.
As I said before, the United States has a higher incarceration rate, and more people in prison, than any other country in the world (barring countries such as North Korea where adequate data is unavailable).
There are currently about 2.2 million people in jail in the United States, which leaves over 2.7 million children with at least one parent behind bars.
Over the last 40 years, incarceration in the United States has increased by over 500%!
I will get into the reasons for this massive increase in incarceration later (*cough* Richard Nixon *cough*), but regardless the amount of “criminals” in the United States, it has obviously not increased by over 500% in 40 years.
1 in 100 adults in the United States has been in prison during the lifetime, meaning that 1% of all Americans have served prison time!
The average cost of keeping one inmate in prison for a year is approximately $29,000! Per year, the current criminal justice system costs taxpayers almost $70 billion!
Whether you want more money for education, fewer taxes on your land or property, or you are one of those people who want to fund a border wall; you can find nearly all of the extra money you need in our prison industry.
As you can see, the people in prison are not the only ones who are suffering from our criminal justice system.
The “crimes” that people are put behind bars for are often victimless and non-violent, but the citizens of the United States are paying for it nonetheless.
Regardless of any black and white issues (racial issues which I will discuss further), I believe we can all understand that we do not want to be paying for this grossly inaccurate criminal justice system!
Does the Current Criminal Justice System Affect Minorities More? Yes.
In 2014, African-Americans comprised 34% of the prison population. As I will further explain below, most of these incarcerations pertain to non-violent drug offenses.
This is an alarming statistic considering at the same time African-Americans only consisted of ~14% of the total population.
In a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 17 million white-Americans, and 4 million African-Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the previous month. Although both races reported using drugs at a very similar rate, the imprisonment rate for African-Americans for drug offenses is almost six times that of white-Americans!
Overall, in the United States, African-Americans are incarcerated at a clip of 5 times that of white-Americans.
As stated in PrisonPolicy.org,
“nonviolent drug convictions are a defining characteristic of the federal prison system, but play only a supporting role at the state and local levels. While most people in state and local facilities are not locked up for drug offenses, most states’ continued practice of arresting people for drug possession destabilizes individual lives and communities. Drug arrests give residents of over-policed communities criminal records, which then reduce employment prospects and increase the likelihood of longer sentences for any future offenses.”
When we talk about criminal justice system reform, it is not only tax dollars that we are saving.
Contrarily, we are building a more productive society overall.
It is impossible to have stable families for generations when you have family members incarcerated and unable to find work.
Not only does this affect the nurturing process of children, but it also drastically affects the ability of younger generations to have the opportunity to “catch up” in life.
The long-term social effects of our current criminal justice system are not quantifiable by statistics.
It affects the way that minorities live their lives, every single day.
Not only will criminal justice system reform reduce the tax burden on every American, but it will also ultimately result in a more cohesive, productive, and stable society as well.
The first criminal offense for rapper Meek Mill was a non-violent offense, and it was also a criminal offense with a severely tainted history.
In fact, the arresting officer in the original case against Meek Mill (officer Reginald Graham) is on the official “secret list” of the Philadelphia District Attorney “of suspect cops who should not be called on to testify in court cases because they have a history of dishonest behavior or racial bias.”
This past March, that list was finally made public, and Graham’s name was squarely on the list.
The “secret list” states that Graham was “investigated by federal authorities for several alleged acts of corruption.”
For Meek Mill, the past ten years of his and his family’s lives have been dictated by a single deplorable individual.
This is only one case though, and the reach of racial bias in our criminal justice system stems much larger.
An overwhelming amount of lives in the United States are affected by non-violent offenses, and this issue effects minorities far more.
Are Our Laws Even Real? Advocating Against the Victimless “Crime” and for Natural Law Theory
Let’s go back to Intro to Philosophy for a minute, because the concept of a crime in America has been extremely distorted with years.
If we want our criminal justice system to work properly, we need a clear definition of what is a punishable crime.
Is a crime a “crime” if there is no victim?
To be honest, no.
In the eyes of the government, yes.
In the eyes of Natural Law Theory, no
I’m going to go in a couple of directions in this part, so please bear with me!
As stated in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “According to natural law legal theory, the authority of legal standards necessarily derives, at least in part, from considerations having to do with the moral merit of those standards.”
Natural law theory has existed since Aristotle, who is the first to be credited with the advancement of this theory.
Since this time, Natural Law Theory has been the supposed “backbone” of laws throughout all government (at least it should be).
According to Aristotle, “natural” justice (or universal law) is determined by nature itself.
Therefore, Natural Law Theory is valid in all communities throughout the world.
Contrarily, “conventional” justice is comprised of rules devised by individuals or individual communities to serve their needs.
Conventional justice is subject to change without merit, which is what we often see in the United States.
Hopefully, this all makes sense to you!
In the United States, our current criminal justice system operates completely outside of the concept of Natural Law Theory.
In the United States, we openly and happily prosecute people for “victimless” crimes. We prosecute and incarcerate people for “crimes” which do not affect anyone else, or even ourselves.
Some of these laws are meant to protect a proper “order,” but the innate rationale of human beings would most likely do this anyways.
Let’s look at marijuana possession or drug possession in general. This is a “victimless” crime because no one else is involved, and the only crime is being “caught” with a drug in hand.
If no one else is affected by the drug user, should this be a crime? The United States legal system overwhelmingly says yes, and taxpayers endless pay for this decision.
For comparison, should McDonald’s be prosecuted for the obesity and health-related issues that their food causes? The merits of marijuana as a medicine are far greater than anything McDonald’s has to offer, but McDonald’s is legal throughout the world!
If it is a crime to possess marijuana, should it not be a crime to possess a McDonald’s cheeseburger?
As you can see, our current laws are subjective to what the government decides for us.
Meek Mill’s Victimless “Crimes”
To put this to test in the case of Meek Mill, let’s look at the “crimes” he has committed over the last ten years.
- 2008- Meek Mill is sentenced to prison for carrying a gun while shopping at a local grocery store.
Now, I might not be the most gun loving American in the world, but do you see a crime here? If we are talking about America specifically, I believe the 2nd Amendment should protect Meek in this situation. Of course, we have states with their own rules on whether or not open-carry of a firearm is allowed in a store, but don’t we all have the protection of the 2nd Amendment without question?
Furthermore, was there any victim here?
- 2014- Meek Mill lands back in prison for violating his probation agreement. The charge? Booking a performance outside of the state of Pennsylvania without a judge’s approval.
Is there a victim here?
Is there a moral justification for this to be a “crime”?
Meek Mill lost multiple more months of productivity in his life due to this senseless charge.
Also, the American tax-payer paid for it.
- 2017- Meek Mill is charged with “Reckless Endangerment” for riding a dirt bike on an empty street in New York City (while filming a music video), the night before performing on Jimmy Fallon.
As stated by someone close to Meek,
“A guy literally popped a wheelie for 10 seconds on the street with no one else around. And the police were there. That’s very important. The police were there, and they saw it, and they didn’t arrest him. They didn’t even give him a traffic ticket.”
This is the most recent event that has landed Meek Mill back in prison.
This was another violation of the original probation agreement (from 2008).
Was there a victim?
Was there anyone in danger of being a victim?
Should the American tax-payer be paying for Meek Mill to be in prison for 2-4 years, and should Meek Mill lose another 2-4 years of his life due to this incident?
None of the violations against Meek Mill have come with a victim.
Yet, he is paying with his life (and money).
Along with this, we are paying for this ignorance.
Focusing on prosecuting those who are committing crimes that actually have a victim would substantially reduce the number of individuals in jail on its own.
In fact, certain parts of the country have had to release violent or sex offending criminals early just to make room for new waves of “criminals”!
If we want to ease the tax burden caused by our faulty criminal justice system, and more easily prosecute and incarcerate the type of individuals who should be in prison, the first focus should be to avoid incarcerating people for “victimless crimes.”
Natural Law Theory would accomplish this with no issue, but a compromised combination of Natural Law and Conventional Justice would do more than well enough!
Let’s Talk About Drug Offenses, In Particular
Although this doesn’t necessarily pertain to the situation with Meek Mill, the handling of non-violent drug offenses is one of the biggest issues plaguing our current criminal justice system.
As far back as alcohol prohibition after the first World War, prohibition has notoriously failed in every sense imaginable.
As journalist H.L. Mencken wrote in 1925,
“Prohibition has not only failed in its promises but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for the law has not increased but diminished.”
Accordingly, the prohibition of drugs in America has done nothing beneficial for any of us.
The prohibition of drugs, and the “War on Drugs” which was begun by Richard Nixon, has done nothing to slow down the use of drugs and the resulting violence.
Sadly, it looks as if our current “president” is happy to continue to walk the same path.
Will it work?
If we want to reduce the number of incarcerations due to drug offenses, the tax-payer burden for non-violent drug offenders, and improve the overcrowding issues in jails across our country, we need to take a stronger look at the drug policy adopted by Portugal some years ago.
As stated in a New York Times article from last year,
“Portugal undertook a monumental experiment: It decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001, even heroin and cocaine, and unleashed a major public health campaign to tackle addiction. Ever since in Portugal, drug addiction has been treated more as a medical challenge than as a criminal justice issue.”
After a little over 15 years into their experiment, Portugal is seeing the number of heroin users lower than 25% of the original total.
In the United States, we are seeing more people die from drug overdoses per year than in the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraqi Wars combined!
Portugal, on the other hand, has the lowest amount of drug-related deaths in all Western Europe!
Not only could this type of policy help save lives, but it would also alleviate an incredible amount of racially-charged arrests.
Even if racial bias still did exist, it would simply not be able to be acted upon due to the law of the land.
As I wrote about above, there is a staggering racial disparity in non-violent drug arrests.
Our criminal justice system needs to be amended for the good of every single person in our country, and it is not “against the law” to look at other countries for guidance!
The United States Criminal Justice System- A Socio-Economic Nightmare That Benefits No One
I think you can all see my personal bias in this article, but I don’t believe that it comes without just-cause.
As we currently are positioned, the American legal system only benefits the people running the prisons, and the politicians who are intrinsically connected with keeping minorities in an unending uphill struggle.
Personally, I do not even believe that the private prison industry itself is the problem.
As stated on Reason.com,
“Private prisons did not create the conditions that encouraged mass incarceration—private prisons came into being as a response to mass incarceration.”
Although Liberals in America love to blame private, capitalistic business for nearly everything that goes wrong, it is hard to argue against this point.
With the current state of mass incarceration, a public prison system would cost taxpayers even more. Regardless of whether they are in a private or a public prison, many individuals would still be in jail for unnecessary reasons due to our criminal justice system.
The only logical issue is to reform our criminal justice system from the bottom up, starting with “victimless crimes.”
As we have seen with Meek Mill, being committed of a victimless crime can ruin your life for a decade, or even longer.
The incarceration of Americans for victimless crimes harms families and generations for years to come, causing a cycle of economic trouble which only predicates more “crime.” In fact, it can often spur “legitimate” crimes!
Although I couldn’t be happier that Meek Mill is back home and out of prison, his fight is not over with. In my opinion, we are just getting to the thick of it.
The case of Meek Mill can be a deciding moment in the future of our criminal justice system, as it is a high-profile case of how much of a failure the current system is.
Welcome home Meek, and here’s to pushing forward so that no one; no matter race, ethnicity, gender, etc., must deal with the consequences of the failed United States criminal justice system ever again!