Gov. Northam signs probation reform bill alongside rapper Meek Mill

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 7:13 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A rapper and advocate is helping change the probation system in Virginia.

“I get paid not a dollar to do this,” said Meek Mill, a music artist and advocate.

Mill was on hand in Richmond Thursday in front of a courthouse as Governor Ralph Northam put pen to paper on a new probation reform bill.

“Being able to speak to the governor today and be able to close gaps, like me and Mike built a relationship, and take it as far as we can take it to better peoples’ lives,” said Mill.

Beginning July 1, it limits probation terms to a maximum of one year for misdemeanors and five for felonies. The bill also limits how much prison time a court can order for a probation violation.

Mill became a reform advocate after a misdemeanor arrest kept him in prison or on probation for much of his adult life. Technical violations kept him on probation for nearly 12 years. He and a group called REFORM Alliance are now advocating for change in other states.

“When we make important steps like this, these things don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen because people like you come and visit and tell your stories and work as advocates,” said Northam.

About 60,000 people are currently on probation in Virginia. That number represents more than a 50% increase in the last 21 years.

“What we have to do is make the system better. I’m not giving up. I know that we have more things to do,” said State Del. Don Scott, 80th District.

Prior to the passing, Virginia was only one of seven states with no such restrictions.

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