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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senator Darius Brown brokers face mask donation from REFORM Alliance to Delaware Department of Correction

June 25, 2020

WILMINGTON – Senator Darius Brown today announced that the REFORM Alliance, a nonprofit criminal justice reform advocacy organization co-founded in part by Meek Mill and Philadelphia 76ers partner Michael Rubin, is donating 5,000 surgical masks to the Delaware Department of Correction (DOC).

The face 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 Commissioner DeMatteis and her staff during this pandemic and I appreciate their diligence in acting to protect Delaware’s inmate population,” Senator 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 Senator 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.

The organization has already donated over one million facemasks 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.”

The face mask donation will supplement measures being taken to mitigate the risk of infection and spread during visitation, including installation of transparent Plexiglass barriers that will partially enclose meeting spaces in visitation rooms.

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 on June 29. 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.

“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 8 facilities COVID-free,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. “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.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Delaware DOC has undertaken a comprehensive effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through aggressive screening, cleaning, testing, isolation, treatment and contact tracing. Every person who enters a correctional facility receives a screening, including temperature check with a thermometer, all prison facilities are thoroughly cleaned at least twice daily, and new inmates are isolated for the first 14 days. The DOC has administered roughly 300 inmate COVID tests, including more than 100 proactive tests on asymptomatic inmates, and has rapid inmate COVID testing capability at James. T. Vaughn Correctional Center, which returns test results within 30 minutes.

All correctional officers also have been wearing masks since April 10, and face masks have been provided to more than half of DOC’s inmate population, including all inmates at the state’s largest prison in Smyrna, inmates who are in infirmaries, have compromised immune systems and inmates with prison-base jobs, such as food service.

Since Delaware experienced its first COVID case in early March, inmate COVID cases have been isolated to just four housing units, out of 173 housing units statewide, in three correctional facilities. As of June 22, there is just one inmate with the illness across Delaware’s correctional system.

Since March 1, DOC’s Level V prison inmate population has been reduced by more than 10 percent, amid fewer admissions of newly arrested individuals, release of a modest number of pre-trial detainees through modification of bail conditions by a court, court-ordered release of individuals held for failure to pay child support, and increased use by DOC of graduated sanctions in lieu of detention to keep probationers in compliance with their conditions of community supervision

These reductions have accelerated a 6-year decline in Delaware’s prison population driven by lower crime rates, a statewide bail reform effort and improved reentry services.

Delaware’s prison facilities are today operating at 73 percent 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 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 Senator 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.”

About REFORM Alliance

Founded in 2019, REFORM’s founding partners include award-winning recording artist Meek Mill; Philadelphia 76ers partner and Fanatics Executive Chairman Michael Rubin; entrepreneur and business mogul Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter; Kraft Group CEP and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Brooklyn Nets co-owner and philanthropic investor Clara Wu Tsai; Third Point LLC CEO and founder Daniel S. Loeb; Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael E. Novogratz; Vista Equity Partners founder, chairman, and CEO Robert F. Smith; Arnold Ventures co-founder Laura Arnold. CNN host, author and activist Van Jones serves as the organization’s CEO.