A couple weeks ago, we reported a story about a Philadelphia man who was arrested for not being able to afford court fees that he had accumulated after being involved in a robbery ten years ago. The 29-year-old man, named Maurice Hudson, owed $1,941, but claimed working on a janitor's salary ($150/week) and taking care of three children did not allow him to pay it off. In February, Judge Genece Brinkley gave Hudson a sentence of 18 to 36 months because of his inability to settle his debt.
Meek Mill and Michael Rubin caught wind of this story and immediately tried to get involved. They are the founding partners of REFORM Alliance, a nonprofit organization concerned with criminal justice, so this situation fell within their jurisdiction. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Meek and Rubin visited Hudson at State Correctional Institution in Phoenix and it turns out this meeting played a role in Hudson being released from jail on Friday (Nov. 22).
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed Hudson's case and decided to free Hudson, calling his sentence an "egregious error." After he was released, he participated in a press conference with lawyers and supporters who fought on his behalf. He was accompanied by his lawyer, Cheryl Brooks from the Philadelphia Defenders Association; CNN analyst Van Jones, who was representing the Reform Alliance; state Rep. Jordan Harris; and lawyers from the ACL.
“Maurice was in jail because he is poor and for no other reason,” Brooks said. “That is what we talked about when we first met. It is exactly what the Supreme Court said, that is egregious to lock people away for no other reason than their financial hardship.” Brooks also thanked REFORM for their assistance in bringing attention to the case and covering Hudson's court fees.
Jones discussed the importance of pushing House Bill 1555, which could greatly contribute to probation reform. “This is not just about getting on person home and getting rid of a bad judge; we’ve got to get rid of some of these bad laws,” Jones said. “We are in a position in Pennsylvania where legislation is in position to be passed this year, thanks to Jordan Harris, so that this doesn’t ever have to happen again. If we don’t want this to happen again, we have to change the law.”