State senator brokers donation of masks to Department of Correction

WILMINGTON — State Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, announced on Thursday the donation of 5,000 surgical masks to the Delaware Department of Correction.

Darius Brown

The masks were provided by the REFORM Alliance, a nonprofit criminal justice reform advocacy organization co-founded in part by rapper, songwriter, and activist Meek Mill and Philadelphia 76ers partner Michael Rubin.

The masks will be used by the DOC to help restart in-person visitation and in-person programming, which have been temporarily suspended since March.

“I have been in regular communication with (DOC) Commissioner (Claire) DeMatteis and her staff during this pandemic and I appreciate their diligence in acting to protect Delaware’s inmate population,” Sen. Brown said.

“Accepting this donation from the REFORM Alliance is yet another measure they have undertaken to protect the lives of those men and women, as well as the families who eventually will welcome them home.”

Brokered by Sen. Brown, the donation is one of many being made across the country by REFORM Alliance, which has set a goal of delivering protective masks to every correctional facility in the United States.

As an added measure of protection, DOC will require both inmates and visitors to wear DOC-issued face masks during visitation sessions, which will begin Monday. Additionally, DOC will require individuals who enter its facilities to lead instructional programs, activities, and faith-based programs to wear DOC-issued face masks as a measure of protection against transmission of COVID-19 from the community. These activities are tentatively set to restart in July.

Without the REFORM Alliance face mask donation, DOC may have needed to procure PPE supplies at additional cost, according to the news release.

“Our rigorous efforts to screen, clean, test, isolate, treat and trace to prevent widespread contamination of the coronavirus are helping to contain this disease to just one prison in our state today, with the other eight facilities COVID-free,” DOC Commissioner DeMatteis said.

“Personal Protective Equipment is just one part of this comprehensive approach to mitigating the risk of contamination. DOC appreciates Senator Brown’s advocacy and dedication to criminal justice reform.”

Delaware’s prison facilities are today operating at 73% of operating capacity, which has allowed the DOC to spread out some inmate populations, designate separate housing tiers for new commits during their first 14 days of incarceration, and set aside isolation tiers for inmates. A vacant building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna also has been converted to a COVID-19 treatment center.

“In a prison where social distancing may be difficult, this donation will help our prison system protect the health and safety of its correctional employees and those serving their debt to society,” said Sen. Brown.

“While I understand the security concerns of inmates wearing face masks, whether guilty or innocent, these men and women deserve to be protected from this deadly virus.”

The organization has already donated over one million face masks to correctional facilities across the United States. The effort has been made possible largely thanks to a recent $10 million donation from Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall initiative.

REFORM’s mask effort has also been aided by 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.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has tragically reminded us that those in prisons and jails are often the most vulnerable to viral spread and often unable to access adequate protection,” said Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance.

“While the Delaware DOC has effectively contained and mitigated the risk of COVID-19, the coronavirus is hitting correctional systems nationwide hard, and a comprehensive approach is needed to protect the people who live and work in these facilities.

“We hope this donation can provide a layer of protection for Delaware’s incarcerated population and correctional staff. We thank Senator Brown and Commissioner DeMatteis for allowing us to help them take this step.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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