Meek Mill's advocacy group sending thousands of surgical masks to prisons
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The prison advocacy group founded by rappers Meek Mill and Jay-Z will send nearly 100,000 surgical masks to Rikers Island and other prisons in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus among inmates.

The Reform Alliance announced Friday it will deliver 50,000 masks to Rikers Island, 40,000 to the Tennessee Department of Corrections and 5,000 masks to the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

“During these moments of uncertainty, the one thing I am certain of, is that we can share resources with the less fortunate,” said Shaka Senghor, a New York Times bestselling author who is partnering with the Reform Alliance on the project. “These are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters behind bars. They are as much a part of the human family as we are.”  

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Reform advocates have warned that the prison system is at risk to become a hotbed for the spread of the coronavirus.

There have been about 200 cases of the coronavirus reported at Rikers Island. New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNew York City Marathon returning with smaller field Jeffries endorses Wiley in New York mayor's race NYPD launches investigation after multiple people slashed on subway MORE (D) has released 300 nonviolent, elderly inmates from the facility.

The Reform Alliance is leading the push to reduce incarcerations during the outbreak, asking federal, state and local officials to consider sending elderly and nonviolent criminals to home confinement.

They’ve also asked for suspended jail sentences for technical violations and more sanitary conditions in prisons to reduce the spread of the outbreak.

"Governors and people who run jails and prisons in this country need to take the pandemic in Rikers as a warning,” said Van Jones, CEO of Reform Alliance. “We're in danger of seeing prisons coast-to-coast turn into morgues. It is important to get medical supplies in, and it is equally important to get more human beings out. Reform Alliance is working on both." 

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The U.S. has more than 2.2 million people in prisons and jails, many of which are over capacity. Prison reform advocates are warning policymakers that many inmates have higher rates of underlying health issues, putting them more at risk of death from the coronavirus. 

The Reform Alliance has released a series of policy proposals in an effort to reduce the number of inmates in the system until the health crisis passes. The group says that so far, a dozen states have adopted some of their recommendations, freeing prisoners or taking additional health safety steps aimed at keeping the prison population healthy. 

“We are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis,” said Jessica Jackson, chief advocacy officer at Reform Alliance. “There are heartbreaking accounts coming from people in jails and prisons across the country. Also, let’s not forget: tens of thousands of sick people flooding out of our prisons could overwhelm our hospitals — making things worse for everyone."

Reform founding partner Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, has helped purchase and deliver 1.4 million masks to Massachusetts, as well as an additional 300,000 that have directed for the Javits Center in New York City, which has been fashioned into a temporary hospital. 

And Reform co-chair Michael Rubin, who owns a sports apparel company, has partnered with the MLB to make safety masks and gowns out of a baseball jersey factory in Pennsylvania.