Jay-Z and Meek Mill sending 10 million surgical masks to U.S. jails and prisons

Rapper Meek Mill arrives at the criminal justice center in Philadelphia for a status hearing,...
Rapper Meek Mill arrives at the criminal justice center in Philadelphia for a status hearing, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Updated: May. 11, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT
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(CBS News) - With a $10 million boost from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Jay-Z and Meek Mill's criminal justice organization REFORM Alliance is sending 10 million surgical masks and other personal protective equipment to correctional facilities across the country.

"This is 2.3 million Americans that don't usually have the loudest voice," Bob Pilon, president of the REFORM Alliance, 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."

Dorsey’s donation was made through his Smart Small relief fund. He’s pledged $1 billion to COVID-19 relief efforts. The charity is based on a transparent tracker of public grants, which Dorsey said will shift focus after the pandemic.

"I'm grateful REFORM exists. 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.

REFORM intends to create a similar system to track the equipment. A small team will manage the program's accountability from start to finish, Pilon said.

The donation coincides with the REFORM's new #AnswerTheirCall digital campaign, an effort to highlight mass incarceration through the accounts of inmates.

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.

Correctional facilities with widespread testing show the highest number of positive cases, suggesting the true number of overall cases behind bars is likely significantly underreported, according to an analysis by the UCLA School of Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project.

Last year, Meek Mill and Jay-Z co-founded REFORM alongside Fanatics owner Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The organization has already sent 100,000 facemasks to several U.S. correctional facilities.

“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 added. “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.”

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