(April 22, 2020) – Today, REFORM Alliance announced that it has partnered with Madonna’s Ray of Light Foundation, apparel company Pair of Thieves, The Bail Project, The Dosberg Fund, Operation LIPSTICK and #cut50 to send an additional 100,000 surgical masks to select correctional facilities across the country to help protect incarcerated people and staff from the COVID-19 virus.
As part of this contribution, 50,000 masks will be delivered to the Cook County Jail and the Illinois Department of Corrections, where 600+ people living in the jail and staff have been tested positive.
An additional 20,000 masks will be delivered to the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the remaining 30,000 masks will be distributed between Vacaville Prison in California, FCI Ray Brook in New York and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts.
REFORM previously partnered with New York Times-bestselling author and justice reform advocate Shaka Senghor to send over 100,000 surgical masks to Rikers Island, the Tennessee Department of Corrections and the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.
While also focusing on decarceration, the organization has continued to ramp up efforts to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to prisons and jails that have been impacted by the global shortage of masks and protective gear to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In recent days, states such as Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia have experienced their first COVID-19 deaths in prison facilities while hundreds of incarcerated individuals, correctional officers and other staff across the U.S. have tested positive for the virus.
“COVID19 is rapidly spreading through prisons and jails. It’s our responsibility to continue to fight for the forgotten and vulnerable population behind bars,” said Michael Mendoza, National Director at #cut50. “#cut50 is proud to be a part of a solution through this partnership with the REFORM Alliance, our Empathy Network Partners Operation Lipstick and our friend and ally Leonard Lee. Incarcerated individuals and correctional staff are at grave risk of exposure to COVID-19 — these surgical masks will help. But so much more needs to be done. We urge elected leaders to implement policies that increase medical supplies and access to information in prisons, while also continuing to safely release people urgently — especially those who are immunocompromised or within 60 days from their release.”
REFORM recently collaborated with medical experts and advocates on all sides of the political spectrum to develop and release the S.A.F.E.R. Plan, policy recommendations meant to equip state leaders with a smart policy response to the potential spread of the coronavirus within correctional facilities and supervision offices. To date, over two dozen states have adopted recommendations from the plan.
“More than 2 million lives in prisons across America are currently at stake due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” REFORM co-chair Michael Rubin said. “It’s absolutely crucial that we protect our inmates and prison staff, especially since social distancing guidelines are difficult to abide by in these facilities. REFORM remains committed to protecting one of our nation’s most vulnerable populations, many of whom are currently incarcerated for technical probation violations (not committing a crime), and we’re grateful for the support of our partners in this endeavor.”
“Our response to this crisis will be judged by how we protect our most vulnerable citizens,” REFORM co-founder Michael Novogratz said. “That include those who are incarcerated, their lives matter too, and we need to start acting like it.”
“Helping others has always been part of our DNA at Pair of Thieves,” said Pair of Thieves founder Cash Warren. “So when the team from REFORM outlined how quickly COVID-19 has spread amongst the incarcerated and those who work in and around prisons, we knew we had to help.”