Rapper Meek Mill has spent decades entangled with the criminal justice system. His time in prison and on probation put him face-to-face with the ways that red tape and self-sustaining systems can keep people trapped by a bureaucracy they can’t escape. His experiences and incarceration led to the “Free Meek” campaign and a 2019 docu-series. They also led him to found the REFORM Alliance with Jay-Z, a foundation working to reduce the impact of the criminal justice system, probation and parole.
But during the coronavirus pandemic, these impacts are magnified. The disease spreads most easily in crowded spaces, where it can jump from person to person with ease, and no spaces are more crowded and less sanitary than prisons. At a single correctional facility in Ohio, 80 percent of prisoners are infected—more than 2,000 people, many of whom are temporarily incarcerated for non-violent and minor offenses.
These viral hot spots also endanger corrections officers, guards, administrators and service staff, who can take the virus home to their families and spread it in usually rural communities.
To call attention to these most vulnerable patients, in a campaign created with Droga5, Mill posted a phone number on Instagram Stories: 1-833-229-8300.
Viewers who “Answer Their Call” hear a real phone conversation with a person living behind bars, talking frankly about their fears of catching Covid-19.
To create the campaign, Droga5 interviewed 23 people currently in prison, who recorded unscripted conversations for the videos. The effort encourages viewers to share the conversations to amplify the voices of inmates.
Next week, the campaign continues with the release of the short film “When It’s All Over,” which looks to the lives of inmates after the pandemic has passed.