After spending time in prison, Robert Rooks founded the reform alliance to help people with criminal records find jobs and support. He shared his thoughts on how to change the system for the better.
The robert rooks alliance for safety and justice is a non-profit organization that works to improve the criminal justice system. CEO Robert Rooks discusses his mission for the company.
(CBS News) — The issues with America’s criminal justice system are not new, but after the murder of George Floyd, discussions about racial inequity, police brutality, and the prison system have increased in this nation. Many individuals, like REFORM Alliance CEO Robert Rooks, have been working on criminal justice reform for decades and are pleased that their cries for change are now being heard and prioritized.
The REFORM Alliance’s goal is to reform probation and parole in the criminal justice system, and they’re getting close due to improvements in state law and federal discussions. Rooks spoke with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about how Floyd’s death changed America, the problems with the country’s parole system, and how cultural influencers like musicians Meek Mill and Jay-Z, as well as businessmen Michael Rubin and Robert Kraft, are helping to mainstream conversations about racial injustice.
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Rooks remarked, “I’ve never seen anything like that, and I’m very thrilled about it.” “One of the most remarkable groups in the criminal justice sector, in my opinion, is REFORM. We’re in the midst of a listening session. People from all across the nation took to the streets a little more than a year ago, saying they didn’t want America to do the sorts of things they were witnessing on their weekly television with the death of George Floyd. People stood out and asked that their government and employers take action. People want things to change. We’re urging governments to alter their laws to make it easier for individuals and communities to get genuine assistance and support.”
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The REFORM Alliance was formed when recording artist Meek Mill was sentenced to jail after being arrested in New York for doing wheelies on a dirt bike, which was considered a breach of his parole. Mill was only sentenced to five months in jail because a coalition of powerful individuals banded together to exert pressure on Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. Mill, Michael Rubin, and others were instrumental in helping Virginia pass a landmark probation reform law recently, and Rooks hopes that similar reforms may be achieved at the federal level in the future.
“These are individuals who are not only investing their money and time, but they are also dedicated to bringing about change,” Rooks added. “We traveled to Virginia, where our team collaborated with Representative Don Scott and the Virginia Assembly to effect significant change. We put a five-year limit on probation, which had previously been uncapped. When Meek stepped out of the vehicle, he was greeted with an outpouring of support from the people of Virginia. Lives will be altered by the stroke of a pen. People are aware of it and are drawn to it.”
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“The federal government employs about 120,000 workers. If the federal system were a state, it would be the tenth largest,” Rooks added. “We’re talking about a large number of individuals here. There is currently no discretion. If a supervisory officer notices anything, they are unable to participate in best practices, such as providing quick assistance. Increased caution is required. We’re pleased to continue working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advance critical legislation that we believe will provide genuine opportunity and hope to the tens of thousands of individuals who work for the federal government.”
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