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Rap stars Jay-Z and Meek Mill joined Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a move to donate 10 million surgical masks to correctional facilities and prisons across the U.S.
A criminal justice reform group co-founded by the rappers announced that masks and other personal protective equipment were being donated in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but only to inmates at facilities.
The president of the REFORM Alliance explained that the move was a way to give convicted felons and those serving time in America’s prisons a “voice” even as populations in many jails across the nation have been cut, freeing prisoners over fears of spreading the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is 2.3 million Americans that don’t usually have the loudest voice,” Bob Pilon told CBS News. “That’s why we’re doing this, to give that population a voice and answer their call to be treated like humans.”
Jay-Z and Meek Mill are sending 10 million surgical masks to prisons and jails across the country 🙏🏾🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/gMBuKnvBjt
— Trending Raps (@TrendingRaps) May 12, 2020
“I’m grateful REFORM exists,” Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who donated $10 million to the organization through his Smart Small relief fund, said. “The criminal justice system needs to change. COVID-19 adds to the injustices, and REFORM is best suited to help.”
The REFORM Alliance was founded by Jay-Z and Mill along with Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft. The group had sent 100,000 face masks to correctional facilities last month.
“We need to protect vulnerable people behind bars & GET THEM OUT!” the organization tweeted at the time.
— REFORM Alliance (@REFORM) April 3, 2020
The group, which laments its “collective disgust with the current state of the American criminal justice system” on its website, recently launched the #AnswerTheirCall digital campaign. CNN political contributor Van Jones, the CEO of the organization, retweeted the latest video.
Proud of this powerful video my team at @REFORM made. No matter who you are or where you’re from — we all want this pandemic to be over. We all need to make it out together. Watch until the end. https://t.co/A57s1VxG2Y
— Van Jones (@VanJones68) May 11, 2020
“We won’t stop until we’ve changed the laws, policies, and practices that perpetuate the horrific injustice we’re seeing in America,” the REFORM website states, explaining its start with “the unjust re-imprisonment of recording artist Meek Mill due to minor technical probation violations.”
According to CBS News:
The Prison Policy Initiative estimates roughly one-third of U.S. jails have cut their populations by 25% since the pandemic began. In the nation’s epicenter of the crisis, New York City’s jail population now hovers below 4,000, its lowest level in decades.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the difficulties prisons and jails are facing when combating the disease, including the critical need for broad-based testing of both inmates and staff.
“I don’t think the public yet knows that there’s no way to end the pandemic outside of prisons if we don’t end it inside of prisons,” Pilon told CBS News. “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.”
While Jay-Z and Meek Mill were applauded by some social media users for the efforts to help inmates, many called out the obvious.
Never hear about these guys giving money to crime victims. It’s always the criminals.
— Dewey (@Deweyornot) May 11, 2020
How about donating it to everyday Americans as opposed to prisoners
— Neil (@NeilNorthJersey) May 12, 2020
They think this is a good look
— Z O H A N (@OoUuChris) May 11, 2020
Why only criminals with the money they have they should give to health care workers also.
— el greco (@Elgreco51Ohio) May 11, 2020
$10 million from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to a tone deaf organization. That’s $10 million for essentially one-time-use PPE! Yet, not a single dollar spent on attempts to reduce the prison population!? So let’s keep them there, just give them masks? https://t.co/DwKSY7ltxx
— Adnan Khan (@akhan1437) May 12, 2020
Never mind the healthcare workers,,,, take care of your criminals because they’re your people. #typical
— daBluesman (@ThaRealBluesman) May 11, 2020
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