Jay-Z and Meek Mill are furthering their efforts to ensure measures are taken to protect incarcerated populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After donating 130,000 surgical masks to prisons and jails throughout the country through their nonprofit REFORM Alliance, they are now expanding the initiative to equip all correctional facilities in the United States with masks, the organization reported.
The effort is a collaboration between REFORM Alliance —a nonprofit the two founded along with other criminal justice advocates to address injustices surrounding probation, parole and the system at large—and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall initiative. A $10 million donation from #startsmall will fund the distribution of over 10 million masks and other personal protective equipment to prisons in every state. As part of the initiative, the REFORM Alliance will cultivate a public log so individuals can see the number of masks that have been donated to each state and the state representative responsible for distributing the masks to prisons for accountability purposes.
The donation was unveiled with a short film released by the organization dubbed #AnswerTheirCall that delves into how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated issues within the criminal justice system. “This generous donation from Jack and #startsmall is an absolute game-changer,” said REFORM Alliance CEO Van Jones in a statement. “Not only will this gift help us protect millions from the threat of COVID-19, but this level of support from a tech titan marks a turning point for the criminal justice reform movement. It’s truly an honor to call Jack an ally in this fight, be able to provide masks to every prison in America and potentially save tens of thousands of lives.” The nonprofit’s SAFER plan initiative has cultivated policy framework that has helped free more than 30,000 inmates.
Several people are putting the focus on mitigating the spread of the virus within correctional facilities. Through his nonprofit Imagine Justice, rapper and activist Common launched a campaign called #WeMatterToo to call on elected officials to release individuals who have served a majority of their sentences and provide them with adequate testing and resources upon their release.