Meek says in the ad that he has never voted because he has been on probation or parole since he was 18. If he could vote, he says that would cast his first vote for Governor Wolf. The thing is the rapper can vote. Felons as well as those on probation and parole can vote in Pennsylvania. My fear is Meek’s false statements in Governor Wolf’s ads will dampen turnout among those that are on probation and parole. Even worse to real criminal justice advocates such as me, the effect of his falsehoods could be to lessen the power of this already disenfranchised group in Harrisburg. Basically, Meek Mill and Michael Rubin are helping to disenfranchise a group that is already disenfranchised that they claim to want to help.
It’s not surprising to me that this mistake was made. While Meek Mill and Michael Rubin, founder and executive chairman of Fanatics, have been on a whirlwind publicity tour claiming they want to help advocate for criminal justice reform, they have actually done nothing. It appears that Meek was even too lazy to check if he could vote. Sadly, he has made other misstatements that some have characterized as “setting back the criminal justice reform movement” 10 years.
Rubin has told the lapdog media that he plans to start a foundation focused on criminal justice reform with a personal donation of $10 million as well as an additional $20 million from his famous friends such as Patriots owner and Trump supporter Bob Kraft. This has resulted in fawning stories labeling him the most woke billionaire on earth. Some criminal justice advocates have characterized this picture of Rubin in an orange prison jumpsuit on Halloween as insensitive as blackface. As one fellow criminal justice advocate, who started the campaign to close Rikers prison in New York, complained to me that it was insensitive and reinforced the stigma of prisoners.
Having been involved with criminal justice reform for a long time, I am more cynical and like Rod Tidwell in the movie “Jerry Maguire” say, “Show me the money”. To be fair, one of the holdups in the entrepreneur setting up the foundation has been the search for the right CEO for the foundation. The very busy Rubin correctly wants to delegate the work to a professional. I bought that at first, but he’s been looking for a CEO since Meek was released from prison in April.
What is more troubling, yet not unexpected is that Governor Wolf and his team put out the video with the canards about voter eligibility. It wouldn’t shock me if the governor didn’t know that those on probation and parole can vote. He has either been missing or tone deaf on criminal justice reform starting with his press conference on criminal justice reform in Philadelphia in May featuring Meek and Rubin. He didn’t invite key members of the criminal justice reform coalition such as Community Legal Services. To add insult to injury, he mentioned as one of his key goals expungement of criminal record without mentioning that the Clean Slate Act was already winding itself through Harrisburg with the support of a broad coalition including Community Legal Services, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long, the Koch Brothers, and Speaker Mike Turzai. The Governor, on many occasions, has shown a reluctance to face the reality that there are GOP majorities in both house of the legislature. Making Meek Mill the face of criminal justice reform may line his campaign coffers with the cash of Rubin, but it will do nothing and could hurt further criminal justice reform in Harrisburg. Ironically, his GOP opponent in the governor’s race, Scott Wagner, has been a leader on criminal justice reform in Harrisburg and in his own company where he regularly hires former prisoners.