Rappers JAY-Z and Meek Mill are helping protect inmates and prison staff from coronavirus with the generous donation of 100,000 surgical masks.
The pair, through their Reform Alliance organization, were able to procure the highly sought out supply to put in the hands of some of the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Masks will be distributed to the Tennessee Department of Corrections with an allotment for the state, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, with the bulk going to New York’s Rikers Island Correctional and their medical facility as one of the country’s largest prisons.
The infection rate at Rikers and other prisons has been astronomical due to challenges with social distancing, lack of available running water, lack of soap, and low supply of tissues and toilet paper, according to The Marshall Project. Hand sanitizer is considered contraband at many facilities due to its high levels of alcohol.
Slate reported on April 2 that an estimated 231 of those incarcerated and 223 staff members at Rikers have tested positive for COVID-19. Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein spent time at the prison while awaiting formal sentencing in February. He tested positive for the virus later in March while at Wende Correctional Facility.
On Friday, New York State Judge Pamela Brown ordered N95 level masks must be provided to officers working with inmates at Rikers, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association — the city is appealing the ruling.
While Rikers is a huge facility, the number of infections across the prison system all over the United States continues to grow. Patrick Jones, 49, became the first federal inmate to die from coronavirus on March 28. He was 13 years into a 28 year prison sentence at a low-security prison in Oakdale, Louisiana for a nonviolent drug offense.
The subject of Netflix’s hit true crime documentary Tiger King, Joe Exotic, is currently serving a 22 year prison sentence for crimes against his hoard of exotic animals and a murder-for-hire plot against his nemesis Carole Baskin. He was recently transferred to a prison medical facility in Forth Worth, Texas where he’s under quarantine after being exposed to the virus at the Oklahoma prison where he was incarcerated.
Reform Alliance will continue its work in ascertaining the highly coveted masks and distributing to the prisons that need it most. After their announcement of 100,000 mask donations, they found 36,000 more to send to South Carolina.
“WE FOUND 36k MASKS FOR PEOPLE BEHIND BARS IN SOUTH CAROLINA @BryanStirling, director of @scdcnews, requested our help after he saw what we could do in #Rikers, #ParchmanPrison, and @TNTDOC1. We located the masks last night and they’re on their way to the state now!”
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