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April 03, 2020

Meek Mill's organization sends PPE to prevent coronavirus infections among prison inmates, staff

Philly corrections system also supplying inmates with masks

Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill is sending large shipments of personal protective equipment to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in several prisons. 

Mill, who was incarcerated for five months following a controversial sentence for violating his probation, is making the donation through REFORM Alliance, the criminal justice organization he leads with fellow rapper Jay-Z, among others. 

Prisons are ripe for coronavirus outbreaks due to the close quarters of cells and regular inmate gatherings. Plus, limited access to soap and hand sanitizer make personal hygiene more challenging

The Philadelphia Department of Prisons is now providing all inmates with masks, city officials announced Friday. They are only permitted to exit their cells for showers and phone calls. Meals and medication will be delivered cell to cell. 

REFORM Alliance is distributing about 100,000 surgical masks to Rikers Island prison and its medical facility, the Tennessee Department of Corrections and the Mississippi State Penitentiary, ABC News reported

Rikers Island prison, one of the largest prison complexes in the world, will received 50,000 surgical masks. Its medical facilities will receive another 2,500. The prison has more than 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases among its 4,600 inmates

The Tennessee Department of Corrections will receive 40,000 surgical masks. In early March, the prison sent a memo to its staff advising employees to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines, including the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

But inmates at many prisons, including the Tennessee Department of Corrections, are not allowed to possess the hand sanitizer needed to defend against COVID-19. 

Earlier this year, Jay-Z sued Mississippi State Penitentiary, alleging poor living conditions led to the death of inmates. His organization is now sending 5,000 surgical masks to the prison. 

Awareness of the challenges facing prisons has grown as more inmates and staff have tested positive. The Federal Bureau of Prisons instituted a 14-day quarantine for inmates in all of its prisons, confining hundreds of thousands of people to their cells.

Some prisons, like Rikers Island, have begun a limited release of inmates to prevent illnesses and deaths. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf began drafting legislation this week to release between 500 and 3,000 of the state's 45,000 incarcerated inmates. 

Surgical masks are best at preventing sick individuals from spreading their germs. That differs from the N95 respirators that many medical providers wear. Those respirators are more adept at protecting the person wearing them. 

Pennsylvania officials are now recommending all residents wear cloth mask when leaving their homes, noting they could prevent asymptomatic people from transmitting the coronavirus. 

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