Probation-reform legislation signed

Gov. Josh Shapiro, Meek Mill celebrate historic probation reform measure.
Gov. Josh Shapiro, Meek Mill celebrate historic probation reform measure.

Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill does far more than drop beats.

The music star joined Gov. Josh Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and a host of luminaries for a ceremonial signing of SB 838 into law. The comprehensive probation reform measure was supported by a bipartisan group from across Pennsylvania with the hopes that Pennsylvanians will find more financial fairness from the judicial system and more paths forward toward positive outcomes.

“We’re showing that we believe in second chances here in Pennsylvania – and when someone gets a second chance, that should be a real opportunity to start over and succeed,” Shapiro said. “We’re taking commonsense steps to remove unnecessary barriers for Pennsylvanians who want to rebuild their lives and meaningfully contribute to our communities. Because of this bill, more people will get to spend the holidays with their families, more parents will get that job they wanted and more people will get back on their feet.

“They’ve served their time, they’ve paid their debt to society – we should do everything we can to help them succeed and thrive.”

In addition SB 689 was signed into law, ensuring that offenders who receive pardons will also have their convictions removed from the record.

“I can’t explain how much this bill means to me,” Meek Mill said. “My experience on probation reflected millions of other stories that go unheard. So when the world saw my case and the absurdity of sending people to prison for non-criminal technical violations, it sparked a movement. It’s an honor and a blessing to see this change come to my home state. I am deeply grateful to the lawmakers and advocates for their hard work over many years to get this done.”

The probation-reform legislation requires a mandatory probation review when half of a probation sentence or two years, whichever is shortest, is completed. For felony probation cases, the standard is one-half or four years.

Fanatics sporting goods CEO Michael Rubin co-chairs the REFORM Alliance with Mill. The rapper, in 2017, received a sentence of two to four years in prison for violating parole on a charge of performing wheelies on a dirt bike.

“When I sat in that courtroom in 2017 and watched a judge sentence Meek to 2-4 years in prison for not committing a crime, my eyes were opened to how broken Pennsylvania’s probation system is,” Rubin said. “We made a promise to not just free Meek but to change the system for millions of others.”

The measure asks probation judges to have a “presumption against confinement” for minor parole violations. Only serious violations should result in a return to prison.  

“For some time now, Pennsylvania has been exploring and debating ways to control correctional costs without sacrificing public safety,” Sen. Lisa Baker said. “This measure to reform probation, after some extensive negotiations, satisfies both goals.”