The celebrity and billionaire-backed REFORM Alliance, a project to reform probation laws, has enjoyed bipartisan support in state legislatures but faces pushback from criminal justice reformers and the ACLU, The Intercept reports. The $50 million project passed 13 bills in eight states, and is working on at least four more bills in three states. The rapper Meek Mill, whose incarceration on a probation violence spurred his activism, has worked with Jay-Z and big-dollar, high-profile backers to push new laws that seek to reduce incarceration based on technical probation violations. While some reform groups, such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums, support some of the group's measures, more than 50 other organizations oppose them, saying they are marketed as reform but could actually make problems worse.
A REFORM backed bill in Pennsylvania would make it harder to get a probation violation for leaving a designated area, but would make it easier for people on probation to be detained for mental health reasons. The bill would also only allow people to get off probation once they paid the sum of their restitution in full. “This bill is indicative of the direction [criminal justice] reform is going that weakens the movement’s ability to create real reforms that would materially change the conditions of Black people,” said Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change. Reuben Jones from Frontline Dads and Dignity and Power Now says the new wave of bills from REFORM is just opportunism. "Billionaires get to impact policy and legislation," Jones said, “then they move on to the next thing." The bill is backed by the Koch brothers, Robert Kraft, Michael Rubin and others. In Virginia, REFORM's bill took effect in July 2021. Since then, it has had "unintended consequences" stemming from inconsistent interpretations of the new law, said one state sentencing official.