As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, one of the places that are being most affected are jails and prisons. They are also the places most likely to be overlooked in the government’s horribly mismanaged response efforts.
According to CBS News, Jay-Z and Meek Mill’s REFORM Alliance is donating 100,000 masks to multiple jails and prisons across the country. REFORM Alliance is an organization focused on criminal justice reform. The masks will be given to both those who work in the prison as well as those incarcerated.
From CBS News:
The REFORM Alliance on Friday announced it would send 40,000 masks to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, 5,000 masks to Parchman and 50,000 to Rikers, and another 2,500 to a Rikers medical facility. The organization said correctional facilities have been especially impacted by the global shortage of protective gear.
There are concerns that the prison population is especially vulnerable to COVID-19 as the cramped spaces make it virtually impossible for them to practice social distancing. Facilities such as Parchman in Mississippi were already under investigation for poor sanitary conditions, infrastructure and rampant gang violence. Their ability to handle current pandemic is questionable at best. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has released inmates from Rikers Island to help overcrowding and to mitigate the spread as much as possible.
Jessica Jackson, the chief advocacy officer at REFORM, told CBS News “Overwhelmingly the response was, ‘please provide the masks, we really need them.’ They want to protect the people working and living in the facilities.”
Unfortunately, given that states are being forced into bidding wars for essential supplies and the president seems more intent on tweeting about ratings and unproven drugs, it seems like it’s going to come down to advocacy organizations to look out for the incarcerated.