Meek Mill, a previously incarcerated rapper scheduled to participate in President Trump’s prison reform panel Friday, said he abruptly withdrew from the event rather than risk distracting from the discussion.
“I was originally scheduled to be part of a panel on Prison Reform at the White House to help shed light on the issues within the system,” the performer, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the focus turned to the President and Myself, which concerned me that it might take away from creating a positive result from today’s discussions,” added Mr. Williams, 31. “As a result, I decided not to attend so that the focus would be solely on fixing our prison system. Most importantly I remain fully committed to improving our criminal justice system.”
Mr. Williams was released from prison in April after spending five months behind bars for a probation violation, and he emerged pledging to use his fame to help reform the existing criminal justice system.
“Although I’m blessed to have the resources to fight this unjust situation, I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues,” he said in a statement following his release last month.
“I want people to know the situation is not about me on any level,” the rapper told CBS News recently. “It’s about changing policies and doing things to protect people like myself who deserve a second chance even if you’re innocent.”
Mr. Williams was initially sentenced to spend two to four years in prison after he was arrested in 2017 while on probation for a previous conviction, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted him bail last month and he was released early as a result.
The White House said in a statement Friday that the panel event would bring together “a diverse group of thought leaders from across the country to discuss the need for federal prison reform.
“There is no substitute for personal accountability and there is no tolerance for those who take advantage of society’s generosity to prey upon the innocent,” Mr. Trump said afterwards. “But if we want more prisoners to take charge of their own lives, then we should work to give them the tools to stand on their own two feet.”