On May 11, CBS News reported that Jay-Z and Meek Mill’s organization, REFORM Alliance, received a big boost from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey via a $10 million donation. The funds will go toward providing masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) to those currently incarcerated — or working in correctional facilities — to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
REFORM Alliance will distribute the masks and other PPE to prisons in all 50 states. This is in addition to the 100,000 masks donated by the organization in April.
The exact number of active COVID-19 cases in American prisons is not currently known. Many facilities lack the testing capability to get an accurate handle on the number of active cases. The virus spreads quickly among prison inmates, as it is nearly impossible to practice the necessary social distancing measures in such close quarters.
“It’s really important that we look at the solutions to ending this holistically. Prisons are eight of the top 10 hotspots, so people need to care about them,” REFORM Alliance president Bob Pilon said, per CBS News.
The most significant hotspot is Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, where 2,197 inmates were infected — a number amounting to over 80 percent of the facility’s population.
“The criminal justice system needs to change. COVID-19 adds to the injustices, and REFORM is best suited to help,” Dorsey said in a statement, per Politico.
Dorsey’s donation comes from his Start Small relief fund, which has thus far pledged over $1 billion for global coronavirus relief. Start Small purports to value complete transparency, and publicly tracks all gifts from the fund via a Google spreadsheet. REFORM Alliance plans on taking a similar approach, claims it will be similarly tracking all spending.
“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,” Politico quoted REFORM Alliance leader, Van Jones, as saying.
REFORM Alliance was created in 2018 after founder Meek Mill fought for his release from prison. He was released on bail from his two- to four-year sentence for a minor parole violation, according to NPR. The rapper had been on parole for many years after being convicted of gun- and drug-related charges at the age of 21.
Upon release from prison, Mill teamed up with Jay-Z and other prominent individuals to create REFORM Alliance, an organization that aims to reform parole and probation processes in the United States. Mill recognized that many stuck in the prison system did not have the means to fight their cases, as he had successfully done.