Delaware Public Media

Dept. of Correction to restart inmate visits with donation of masks from reform group

Jun 25, 2020

Delaware’s Department of Correction (DOC) has accepted a gift of disposable masks from a celebrity prison reform group. 

The REFORM Alliance was founded by the likes of Jay-Z, Van Jones and the previously incarcerated Philly rapper Meek Mill. It pushes for criminal justice policy reform.

The group donated 5,000 disposable masks to the Delaware Department of Correction. 

DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis says the prison system will use the masks to facilitate in-person visitation, which will start back up Monday. DOC suspended visitation in March to try to stop the virus from entering the prisons. 

“Every visitor who signs up, and who passes any sort of background check and has no history of COVID in their household for the past month, is going to be given one of these masks to visit with their loved one,” DeMatteis said at a press event Thursday.

DeMatteis says the inmate will also be provided a mask for the visit, which they can keep. This spring DOC was criticized for not providing all inmates with masks. 

Delaware Legislative Black Caucus Chair State Sen. Darius Brown (D-Wilmington) facilitated the donation. He says REFORM Alliance’s goal is to give personal protective equipment to every prison and jail in the country.

“I contacted a friend of mine, Van Jones, who is the CEO of REFORM, about Delaware having a role in this important work,” said Brown.

DOC has reported 148 cases of the virus— both symptomatic and asymptomatic— among offenders. Seven have died. Currently only one inmate is positive. 

DOC may consider suspending visitation again if it causes a resurgence of the virus within facilities.