RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam was joined by some famous faces as he signed a bill during a special ceremony Thursday morning that will reshape how probation works in the state.
Grammy-nominated Rapper Meek Mill -- who is known as a major advocate for probation reform after he said he was negatively impacted by the justice system -- as well as Philadephia 76ers partner Michael Rubin and REFORM Alliance CEO Robert Rooks attended the signing ceremony of the historic bill.
Delegate Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, sponsored House Bill 2038, which limits the amount of active incarceration a court can impose because of a revocation hearing for a probation violation.
The new law will limit probation periods to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and five years for felonies.
"This bill that will be signed today will bring relief to tens and thousands of people. People that are both incarcerated right now for a violation," said Rooks. "40% of Virginia's prison population are people that were violated on supervision. It will also bring relief to the 60,000 people on probation living in communities living life, in their homes, but still incarcerated at the same time."
For Scott, the bill is personal.
"Something I did in 1994 -- that was bs-- but I got a 10-year sentence. I remember my mother crying in the courtroom. I was locked up. I was arrested. Studying in a law library," said Scott. "So don't tell me that this system is fair. Well, what we have to do is make this system better. I'm not giving up. I know that we have more things to do."
"The first time I learned that you could go to prison or jail for not committed a crime was when Meek got me to go to court. And well, that may have changed his life...it changed my life even more," said Rubin at the ceremony.
Meek shared his story during the ceremony about his struggles after being locked up at the age of 19 for a crime he said he didn't commit, and then spending 12 years on probation following his release.
Now, he's dedicated to changing the system that he felt wronged him.
"Of course I'm not perfect, but being in situations like this will make me become better and speed up the process," said Meek. "And I'll make sure I'll be able to deliver and close every bridge I can to help fix the system because I was affected by that."
Republican state delegate and Attorney General nominee Jason Miyares voted against the bill and called it troubling.
"This bill essentially neuters a judge's ability to find a violation of probation," Del. Miyares. R-Virginia Beach, said.
Today, we celebrated the signing of our historic probation reform bill in Virginia. Thank you @GovernorVA @DonScott757 @JusticeFwdVa @ACUFforJustice @FaithandFreedom for helping us Give Life Back! @michaelrubin @MeekMill @RobertRooks5 pic.twitter.com/WvVc8ghNAA— REFORM Alliance (@REFORM) June 10, 2021