Rapper Meek Mill backs out of White House talk on prison reform

Rapper Meek Mill abruptly backed out of a prison reform event at the White House on Friday because he was concerned that a meeting with President Donald Trump would have distracted the public from the topic, according to a statement obtained by NBC News.

"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," said Mill, whose legal name is Robert Rihmeek Williams.

"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."

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Meek Mill through the years
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Meek Mill through the years
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 20: Rappers Rick Ross (L) and Meek Mill perform onstage during TIDAL X: 1020 Amplified by HTC at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on October 20, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIDAL)
Meek Mill performs during the 2015 BET Awards in Los Angeles, California, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill perform during the 2015 BET Awards in Los Angeles, California, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Rappers Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill arrive at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, U.S., August 28, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Nov 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Musical recording artist Nicki Minaj (L) and Meek Mill (R) during the second half of a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Wells Fargo Center. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 102-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12: Meek Mill, Pill and Wale of Maybach Music Group visits BET's '106 & Park' at 106 & Park Studio on April 12, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
(L-R) Pill, Rick Ross, Wale, DJ Kast One and Meek Mill visits BET's '106 & Park' at 106 & Park Studio on April 12, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13: Producer Jhlilp and rapper Meek Mill attend an after party following the 'Home & Home' concert at the 40 / 40 Club on September 13, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: Rapper Meek Mill attends Webster Hall on August 11, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
CAMDEN, NJ - JULY 29: Rick Ross and Meek Mill performs during the I Am Still Music tour at Susquehanna Bank Center on July 29, 2011 in Camden, New Jersey. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/FilmMagic)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Meek Mill attends The 2011 MTV2 Sucker Free Awards at Fountainbleau Miami Beach on November 11, 2011 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Vallery Jean/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: Meek Mill performs at the Best Buy Theatre on December 19, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: Meek Mill performs at the Best Buy Theatre on December 19, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Cory Schwartz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 31: Recording artist Meek Mill visits BET's '106 & Party' at BET Studios on December 16, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY: Rapper Meek Mill performs at THe Manhattan Center on February 29, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images).
CONCORD, CA - MAY 07: Rapper/Hip-Hop Vocalist Meek Mill aka. Robert Williams performs at Sleep Train Pavilion on May 7, 2012 in Concord, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 01: Meek Mill performs as part of The Maybach Music Group Tour at Sleep Train Arena on December 1, 2012 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 22: Recording artist Meek Mill and DJ Khaled visit 106 & Park at 106 & Park studio on October 22, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Meek Mill and Stephen Hill attend the Revolt launch party at Slate on October 21, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30: Meek Mill attends the BET Hip Hop Awards 2013 - Afterparty at Prive on September 30, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/FilmMagic)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 28: Meek Mill performs during the BET Hip Hop Awards 2013 at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center on September 28, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 08: (L-R) Justin Bieber, French Montana and Meek Mill attend Meek Mill Official Grammy Party on February 8, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 07: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Adam Petrick, Global Brand & Marketing Director for PUMA, and recording artist Meek Mill attend Roc Nation and Three Six Zero Pre-GRAMMY Brunch 2015 at Private Residence on February 7, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for PUMA)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 08: (L-R) French Montana, Meek Mill, Khloe Kardashian and Chinx Drugz attend Meek Mill Official Grammy Party on February 8, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 02: Meek Mill talks on stage at CRWN A Conversation With Elliott Wilson & Meek Mill event at Gramercy Theatre on July 2, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for WatchLOUD.com)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Meek Mill attends his pop up store exerience at 25 Mercer Street on June 30, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28: Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill attend the 2015 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 23: Hip-hop artist Meek Mill is seen arriving at a Teen Shelter on December 23, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 05: Recording artist Meek Mill performs at Drai's Beach Club - Nightclub at The Cromwell Las Vegas on September 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 18: Meek Mill Attends the Gucci Mane 'Woptober' Album Release Party at Gold Room on October 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 23: Rick Ross, Meek Mill and 21 Savage attend Rick Ross Birthday Bash at XS Lounge on January 23, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Meek Mill and Alex Gidewon attend a Party at compound Nightclub on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo By Prince Williams/Wireimage)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 25: Meek Mill performs during V-103 Live Pop Up Concert at Philips Arena on March 25, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
CLARKSTON, MI - JULY 31: Rapper Meek Mill performs at DTE Energy Center during The Pinkprint Tour on July 31, 2015 in Clarkston, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images)
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He added, "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."

Mill was released from prison about a month ago after being sentenced in November to a two- to four-year sentence for a probation violation — a decision criticized by his supporters as too severe. After serving five months, he was granted bail by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court while fighting his 2008 conviction on drug and gun charges.

Many pointed to the sentence as evidence of inequities in a criminal justice system where African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

After his release, the rapper said he recognized his experience as “a very important moment" and vowed to "shine a light" on how the criminal justice system treats minorities.

The president, who did not address Mill's absence at Friday's event, said his administration is pushing Congress to reform the prison system and reduce recidivism.

15 PHOTOS
Inside prisons across America
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Inside prisons across America
A prison cell block is seen following a tour by US President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
An inmate with mental health conditions is handcuffed to a table while jailed in the Medium Observation Housing at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An inmate with mental health conditions eats is a cell while jailed in the High Observation Housing at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Handcuffs sit on a rail in the High Observation Housing at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An inmate works in the kitchen at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. California is under a federal court order to lower the population of its prisons to 137.5 percent of their designed capacity after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that inmate health care was so bad it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A prison cell is seen through the door window following a tour of the cell block by US President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Inmates with mental health conditions are escorted to the the Correctional Treatment Center Hospital at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A bird flies over barbed wire on top of fences at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. California is under a federal court order to lower the population of its prisons to 137.5 percent of their designed capacity after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that inmate health care was so bad it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Inmate Kristina Hazelett, 35, plays with a dog in a cell at the MCSO Animal Safe Haven (MASH) Unit in a former jail that has become a shelter for abused and neglected animals seized in Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigations, in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "DOGS NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Members of the media in protective vests and face shields take photographs of inmates at the recreation yard inside the Adjustment Center during a media tour of California's Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California December 29, 2015. America's most populous state, which has not carried out an execution in a decade, begins 2016 at a pivotal juncture, as legal developments hasten the march toward resuming executions, while opponents seek to end the death penalty at the ballot box. To match Feature CALIFORNIA-DEATH-PENALTY/ Picture taken December 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Members of the media walk down the corridor inside the Adjustment Center during a media tour of California's Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California December 29, 2015. America's most populous state, which has not carried out an execution in a decade, begins 2016 at a pivotal juncture, as legal developments hasten the march toward resuming executions, while opponents seek to end the death penalty at the ballot box. To match Feature CALIFORNIA-DEATH-PENALTY/ Picture taken December 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A message is seen on the wall at a cafeteria inside the Darrington Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice men's prison in Rosharon, Texas August 12, 2014. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a private college based in Fort Worth, Texas, began its bachelor of science in biblical studies program at Darrington, south of Houston, about three years ago. To be accepted, an offender has to be at least 10 years from the possibility of parole, have a good behavior record and the appropriate academic credentials to enroll in a college course. The program, which is largely paid for by charitable contributions from the Heart of Texas Foundation, has more than 150 prisoners enrolled and plans to send its graduates as field ministers to other units who want the bible college alumni for peer counseling and spiritual guidance. The first degrees are expected to be conferred next year. Picture taken August 12, 2014. To match Feature USA-TEXAS/PRISON REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION SOCIETY RELIGION)
Offenders are reflected in a mirror while studying at a library inside the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary located in the Darrington Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice men's prison in Rosharon, Texas August 12, 2014. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a private college based in Fort Worth, Texas, began its bachelor of science in biblical studies program at Darrington, south of Houston, about three years ago. To be accepted, an offender has to be at least 10 years from the possibility of parole, have a good behavior record and the appropriate academic credentials to enroll in a college course. The program, which is largely paid for by charitable contributions from the Heart of Texas Foundation, has more than 150 prisoners enrolled and plans to send its graduates as field ministers to other units who want the bible college alumni for peer counseling and spiritual guidance. The first degrees are expected to be conferred next year. Picture taken August 12, 2014. To match Feature USA-TEXAS/PRISON REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION SOCIETY RELIGION)
A security official walks past a sign seen inside a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary library located in the Darrington Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice men's prison in Rosharon, Texas August 12, 2014. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a private college based in Fort Worth, Texas, began its bachelor of science in biblical studies program at Darrington, south of Houston, about three years ago. To be accepted, an offender has to be at least 10 years from the possibility of parole, have a good behavior record and the appropriate academic credentials to enroll in a college course. The program, which is largely paid for by charitable contributions from the Heart of Texas Foundation, has more than 150 prisoners enrolled and plans to send its graduates as field ministers to other units who want the bible college alumni for peer counseling and spiritual guidance. The first degrees are expected to be conferred next year. Picture taken August 12, 2014. To match Feature USA-TEXAS/PRISON REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION SOCIETY RELIGION)
An offender grabs lunch from a cafeteria inside the Darrington Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice men's prison in Rosharon, Texas August 12, 2014. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a private college based in Fort Worth, Texas, began its bachelor of science in biblical studies program at Darrington, south of Houston, about three years ago. To be accepted, an offender has to be at least 10 years from the possibility of parole, have a good behavior record and the appropriate academic credentials to enroll in a college course. The program, which is largely paid for by charitable contributions from the Heart of Texas Foundation, has more than 150 prisoners enrolled and plans to send its graduates as field ministers to other units who want the bible college alumni for peer counseling and spiritual guidance. The first degrees are expected to be conferred next year. Picture taken August 12, 2014. To match Feature USA-TEXAS/PRISON REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION FOOD SOCIETY RELIGION)
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“For this effort, we are not just absolving prisoners of their central role in their own rehabilitation 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,” Trump said.

“However, 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.”

The House is expected to vote on an administration-backed bill addressing prisons as soon as next week. It provides $50 million of funding for prisons to implement job training and education in an effort to reduce recidivism.

However, some have criticized the bill as not going far enough.

Mark Holden, chairman of the Koch-backed Freedom Partners, who has been working on passing broad-based criminal justice reform for several years, said the measure represented a realistic view of what can get done given the political dynamics.

“This is a bill that everybody agreed on,” Holden said. “The larger bills are great but they don’t go anywhere, so what’s the point of waiting?”

Advocates for criminal justice reform in the Senate, where a different comprehensive bill recently passed the Judiciary Committee, disagree.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who chairs that committee, has said that he’s not interested in bringing up prison reform measures that address just a limited component of criminal justice reform. He said there’s widespread support for his comprehensive bill, called the First Step Act, in the Senate, and that Congress should take up meaningful reform.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who has been working with Grassley on the issue, agrees. Their bill reforms sentencing guidelines and gives judges more discretion.

“I’m sticking with Senator Grassley. We’ve made a good faith offer. We passed the bill through the committee with overwhelming support. I don’t think his position is unreasonable,” Durbin said.

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