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Jay-Z, Meek Mill Teaming Up To Bring Masks To Prisons

Gettyimages | Kevin Mazur

The criminal justice reform group formed by Jay-Z and Meek Mill has pledged to send thousands of masks to jails and prisons in the United States - about 100,000 -- to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to CBS News, Meek Mill and Jay-Z's group, The REFORM Alliance, said today (April 3) that it would send masks to the Rikers Island complex, Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and the Tennessee Department of Corrections, as well as 2,500 to a medical facility at Rikers.

'Vulnerable Population'

Gettyimages | David Dee Delgado

Jessica Jackson is the chief advocacy officer at REFORM.

"It's a very vulnerable population. 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," Jackson said, according to CBS News.

Incarcerated people inside our criminal justice system are at an increased risk of contracting coronavirus, since it's next to impossible for people to follow the social distancing guidelines laid out by the CDC.

NYC Is Like a Ghost Town

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New York City is now considered the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and its prisons are more vulnerable than ever. CBS News says at least 231 inmates and 223 staff members have come down with COVID-19 in New York City jails. Cook County Jail in Chicago is not far behind, with a reported 167 inmates and 46 staff members diagnosed with coronavirus.

Ailing System

Gettyimages | SVF2

Jackson says that REFORM has spoken with several governors, who say they want to help out inmates and staff but they don't have any way to do so.

"Overwhelmingly the response was, 'please provide the masks, we really need them.' They want to protect the people working and living in the facilities. I think Rikers Island especially, they are very aware the virus has hit and so many lives are now at risk," Jackson said.

Some prison systems have responded by releasing certain inmates -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says they've released about 650 inmates from Rikers Island to minimize overcrowding, so that's a start.

Gettyimages | Memorystockphoto

The mask donation by REFORM is part of its SAFER Plan, which includes recommendations that are meant to help prisons during an outbreak. But what's going on now is just not enough.

"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. This is a movement, but we need all of the voices we can get," said Jackson.

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