NEW YORK, N.Y. – A criminal justice reform organization co-founded by Meek Mill, Jay-Z and others is doing what it can to help protect the prison population from the coronavirus.
Friday, REFORM Alliance announced on Twitter that it has donated 100,000 masks to correctional facilities, where they’ll be used by correctional officers, healthcare workers and inmates to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
WE JUST DONATED 100k MASKS TO PEOPLE BEHIND BARS 🙌🏾 that includes 50k to #Rikers , 40k to @TNTDOC1 , and 5k to #ParchmanPrison .
THANK YOU to our friend @ShakaSenghor for leading this charge. We need to protect vulnerable people behind bars & GET THEM OUT! https://t.co/xSutAIlnRD pic.twitter.com/FhyMfDfrXk
— REFORM Alliance (@REFORM) April 3, 2020
Of those masks, organizers say 50,000 went to the Rikers Island jail complex, 40,000 went to the Tennessee Department of Corrections and 5,000 went to the troubled Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.
Health officials have warned that people in prison are especially in danger of contracting the deadly virus, because it’s nearly impossible to practice social distancing in such close quarters.
Jessica Jackson, the chief advocacy officer at REFORM, told CBS News that the organization is worried that prisoners could become sitting ducks, with so many people coming in and out of facilities.
The organization is calling on states to lower their prison populations by releasing inmates who committed lesser crimes.
"We're still looking at jail and prison populations that are completely overcrowded to dangerous levels when you're looking at a pandemic like this head-on," Jackson told CBS News.
The group's donation is part of its "Safer Plan," which was developed to help prevent the spread of communicable disease in the criminal justice system.