Today, REFORM Alliance announced that it has received a 70,000-mask donation from Grammy award-winning singer Kelly Rowland.
The organization will provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) to prison and jail facilities in Harris County, Texas (where Rowland was raised) and Fulton County, Georgia (where Rowland was born) to protect the incarcerated population, correctional officers, healthcare workers and personnel from COVID-19 exposure.
“We’re grateful to Kelly for her generosity and care for our incarcerated population,” REFORM Alliance CEO Van Jones said. “As our country shifts its attention to re-opening, we can’t forget about the millions of people that remain incarcerated and that continue to struggle with the devastating threat of COVID-19. Kelly’s donation is crucial in helping REFORM deliver PPE to every prison and jail across America.”
According to a report in The Houston Chronicle, more than 1,000 incarcerated people and jail staff in the Harris County jail had contracted COVID-19 by the middle of May, signaling one of the highest infection rates for jails in the U.S. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who recently joined REFORM at a virtual press conference to discuss the ongoing threat of COVID-19, has taken steps, such as attempting to depopulate the jail, to reduce the spread of the virus. But the problem persists – as of last week, there were about 1,300 total cases in the jail.
Meanwhile, 37 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at Atlanta’s Fulton County jail, which has an incarcerated population of 2,600. 55 percent of people admitted to prison in Georgia are there for probation violations. Overall, the state has the highest rate of people on probation and parole in the country. It’s one of several places where REFORM is working to change probation and parole policies to give people the support they need to succeed in their communities and avoid being reincarcerated.
Rowland’s donation comes nearly a month after REFORM partnered with Twitter/Square CEO Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall to deliver more than 10 million masks to prisons across all 50 states and released a powerful PSA (that can be viewed here) that outlines how COVID-19 is threatening to turn prison sentences into death sentences for the 2.3 million people that are currently incarcerated.
Of that total, there are roughly 95,000 people incarcerated for nonviolent, technical probation violations, such as being late to a probation appointment or filing inaccurate paperwork.
REFORM previously partnered with Madonna’s Ray of Light Foundation, apparel company Pair of Thieves, New York Times-bestselling author Shaka Senghor, The Bail Project, The Dosberg Fund, Operation LIPSTICK and #cut50 to send and distribute 200,000 surgical masks to Rikers Island, the Tennessee Department of Corrections, the Louisiana Department of Corrections, the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Vacaville Prison, FCI Ray Brook and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts.
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