Jay Z and Meek Mill’s REFORM Alliance will supply US correctional facilities in all 50 states with 10 million surgical masks and other personal protective equipment to help prevent the spread of coronavirus among inmate populations.
“This is 2.3 million Americans that don’t usually have the loudest voice,” Bob Pilon, president of the REFORM Alliance, told CBS News.
“That’s why we’re doing this, to give that population a voice and answer their call to be treated like humans.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey showed support for REFORM’s initiative with a $10 million donation through his Start Small foundation.
Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey has donated $10 million to Reform Alliance, the prison reform non-profit co-founded by Meek Mill, Michael Rubin and Jay-Z https://t.co/arD2GWoR4f pic.twitter.com/j2LAnUNkWg
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) May 11, 2020
Dorsey pledged $1 billion to COVID-19 relief efforts in early April, launching Start Small with the aim to transparently track its charitable contributions via a public Google Doc throughout the pandemic and beyond the crisis.
Start Small’s contribution comes in response to REFORM’s digital campaign #AnswerTheirCall, a series of voice memos that puts a spotlight on inmates’ stories to end the inhumanity of mass incarceration.
We spoke with more than 20 people about what they’re looking forward to when this pandemic is all over. Turns out, we all want the same things. Watch until the end #AnswerTheirCall pic.twitter.com/flvuDL2WjE
— REFORM Alliance (@REFORM) May 11, 2020
“I’m grateful REFORM exists. The criminal justice system needs to change. COVID-19 adds to the injustices, and REFORM is best suited to help,” Dorsey said in a statement obtained by CBS News.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, social distancing is virtually “impossible” in prisons.
Although jails have cut inmate populations by 25% since the pandemic began, state prisons continue to house populations dangerously overcrowded by social distancing standards.
With staff moving in and out of facilities each day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for widespread testing of both correctional staff and inmates.
Correctional facilities that have been able to administer tests show the highest number of confirmed cases. According to data analyzed by the UCLA School of Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, it stands to reason that institutions with less access to testing are host to a significantly underreported number of positive cases.
REFORM was co-founded in 2019 by Meek Mill and Jay-Z along with Fanatics owner Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Since the pandemic began, the organization has supplied US correctional facilities with over 100,000 face masks.
Pilon believes the public is unaware that the pandemic cannot end if it continues to spread in prisons.
“It’s really important that we look at the solutions to ending this holistically. Prisons are eight of the top 10 hotspots, so people need to care about them,” Pilon said.
The rate of #COVID19 infection is 2.5x higher behind bars than in the general population. THOUSANDS of people could die unless we take urgent action NOW.
— REFORM Alliance (@REFORM) May 12, 2020
As of this week, 20,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 295 have died in prison due to the virus.