Meek Mill on prison reform: ‘We are trapped inside of a system’

Rapper Meek Mill says he and many other formerly incarcerated people are “trapped inside of a system that’s extremely hard for us to get out (of).”

The hip-hop artist spoke candidly about prison reform and his own experiences with the criminal justice system in an interview Friday with CNN’s Michael Smerconish.

“There’s a lot of things in the system that clearly don’t make sense,” he said, adding that elements of the criminal justice system are often “targeted” towards marginalized people. “It’s keeping many young black men caught up in the system without even committing crimes.”

Meek also responded to criticism that his many run-ins with the law, including his 2008 gun charge, should disqualify him from leading a campaign for prison reform.

“I grew up in in America in a ruthless neighborhood where we were not protected by police,” he said. “We grew up with people selling drugs in our neighborhood on our front steps. We grew up in ruthless environments. We grew up around murder.”

The rapper then asked Smerconish, “If you grew up in my neighborhood, you see seven people die a week, I think you would probably carry a gun yourself?”

“Yeah, I probably would, yes,” the CNN host responded.

Meek also reflected on his first arrest, for when he allegedly pointed a firearm at police officers when he was 18 years old.

“I’m not the only one that gets found guilty for these things. Cops charge people with these things at an alarming rate,” said Meek, who maintains his innocence. “Pointing a gun at a police officer is suicide for a black young man. I never thought about committing suicide in my life.”

Aside from prison reform, Meek said he doesn’t really “keep up with politics,” something that separates him from rapper Jay-Z, who appears on his new album, “Championships.” Jay-Z, who has been outspoken about his political views, uses his verse on the song “What’s Free” to comment on differences between him and Kanye West, who has openly supported President Trump.

While Meek said he doesn’t consider Jay-Z’s verse a jab at West, he said he finds West’s views to be inconsistent with those of the hip-hop community as a whole.

“Kanye came out of nowhere and just went red hat, and that was kind of against everything we represent,” he said, referencing the Trump campaign’s signature red “Make America Great Again” cap that West has frequently worn. “We came up fighting, and fighting for our rights for a long time, and what that red hat represents don’t really represent what we’ve been fighting for our whole lives.”

Despite his criticism of West, Meek did praise President Trump’s bipartisan effort for prison reform.

“I’m not a politician, but I feel like anything that a president does to fix laws and statues that don’t make any sense and are unfair to American people is the right thing to do,” he said.