Jay-Z and Meek Mill’s criminal justice organization, REFORM Alliance, has teamed up with advocate Shaka Senghor to send nearly 100,000 surgical masks to prisons across the country in an attempt to help stifle the spread of the coronavirus.
Fifty thousand face masks will be sent to Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York, with another 2,500 going to a Rikers medical facility. Riker’s is one of the country’s largest prisons, and as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to soar in New York City, a reported 231 inmates and 223 staff members at local jails have been infected with the virus as of April 2. Additionally, 40,000 masks will be sent to the Tennessee Department of Corrections to be distributed to facilities around the state, and 5,000 will go to Mississippi State Penitentiary.
“We are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis,” Jessica Jackson, chief political officer at REFORM Alliance, said in a statement to ABC News. “There are horror stories coming from people in jails and prisons across the country. REFORM Alliance is seeking help to get medical supplies into correctional facilities, and we’re also pushing Governors across the country to enact our SAFER Plan recommendations to get people out quickly and safely.”
“It’s a very vulnerable population,” she added to CBS News. “We’re really worried about the number of people coming in and out of the facility, and the fact that the people living there might be sitting ducks during this pandemic.”
“Overwhelmingly the response was, ‘please provide the masks, we really need them.’ They want to protect the people working and living in the facilities,” Jackson continued. “I think Rikers Island especially, they are very aware the virus has hit and so many lives are now at risk.”
At the time of writing, there have been over 301,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, with over 8,000 resulting in death. Federal and state prisons across the country are struggling to keep the coronavirus contained as officers, guards, and inmates continue to test positive for the virus.