Criminal justice reform group gets bill passed in California to improve state’s probation system

REFORM Alliance, the criminal justice reform organization co-founded by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, rapper Meek Mill, entrepreneur Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft among others, just passed its first significant reform law in the U.S., which dramatically changes California’s probation system. AB 1950, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom this week, will limit adult probation sentences to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and two years for felony offenses.

Video Transcript

MICHAEL RUBIN: We have a goal of getting a million people out of the system that don't belong there. And the same way that Van Jones said, "Hey, I'll work with Republicans, I'll work with Democrats, I'll work with anybody to change laws," we feel the same way.


My name is Michael Rubin. I'm the co-founder of the REFORM Alliance. The bill in California is an incredible step forward in really fixing our broken probation system. Today, there is 6.7 million people in the criminal justice system, 4 and 1/2 million people on probation and parole, 2.2 million in prison and jail. There's been so much good work done on fixing some of the problems with the prison and jail issues, but there's been really nobody focused on how do you fix probation, how do you fix parole.

And so the new bill on probation puts a limit on most people to no more than one year for a misdemeanor and two years on a felony in the state of California, and that's truly transformative. And somebody like Meek, who's like a brother to me, he was on probation for 12 years and had another six years left. He went to prison four different times for never committing a crime. And for Meek, that was normal. For me, that was crazy.

So we're focused on changing the laws on a state by state basis to help get a minimum of a million people out of the system. Our goal is to educate the 75% of the country that doesn't understand how broken the system is and show them examples like what happened to Meek, what happens to people every day. Someone who changes their address multiple times and they couldn't keep up with probation, they go back to prison for that. They smoke marijuana, they go to prison for that.

You know, they're not breaking crimes. These are little things that we should be trying to help these people. So for me, what we want to do is help get a million-plus people out of the system who don't belong there, while helping to educate the 75% of the country who doesn't understand these issues so we can come together.

I think as a owner in sports or a successful person in business, you have a huge responsibility to make a difference. And for me, I can tell you, sometimes you need a moment that opens your mind. And-- and mine, to-- to be honest, was sitting in court with Meek three years ago when I watched a-- a good friend of mine who didn't commit a crime get sent to prison for two to four years.

And that's what got me on such a mission to help change the broken probation and parole laws. But I can tell you that the players alone, they can't get things changed without the help of everyone coming together. The same with owners alone, the same with business people alone. People need to work together to get things done.