Burlington, VT, April 14, 2020 – Imagine if you didn’t have soap or hand sanitizer. Or if you ate dinner elbow-to-elbow with hundreds of others and lived in a place so overcrowded you couldn’t possibly practice social distancing.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most dangerous places to be is in jail.
That’s why Ben & Jerry’s has teamed up with Advancement Project National Office and its #FreeAndSafe campaign to reduce jail and prison populations. Overcrowded jails, prisons and detention centers create the perfect conditions for an outbreak that would quickly move beyond prison walls.
Advancement Project National Office and a coalition of civil rights and racial justice organizations recently convinced a federal judge in Miami to issue a temporary restraining order requiring the Metro West Detention Center to follow the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 safety precautions.
Advancement Project National Office is seeking similar legal action in Detroit and Oakland, Michigan; East Baton Rouge; and St. Louis. Ben & Jerry’s is supporting the effort with an online tool that helps Floridians connect with their state and local officials to ask that incarcerated people be kept #FreeAndSafe from the coronavirus.
“The temporary restraining order was a victory for the people in Metro West Detention Center, but we still have more work to do,” said Thomas B. Harvey, Justice Project Director at Advancement Project National Office. “Miami-Dade County officials have a choice: immediately start releasing people to save their lives or watch while people die and the virus spreads to the broader community because of their indifference.”
Jails and prisons nationwide have released people to avoid a widespread outbreak within a contained population. The most likely to be released are those held on wealth-based, pre-trial detention; technical violations of parole or probation; and low level or non-violent crimes. People who are elderly or are close to the end of their sentences are also candidates.
“The COVID-19 crisis has given us an opportunity to reimagine our criminal system,” said Jabari Paul, US Activism Manager for Ben & Jerry’s. “Cities and states across the country are reevaluating their systems for imprisonment and arrests, ultimately creating a safer and more just approach. We’re proud to work with Advancement Project National Office toward ‘justice for all.’”
The #FreeAndSafe campaign is the latest effort in Ben & Jerry’s multi-year focus on criminal system reform, in partnership with Advancement Project National Office. The ice cream company does advocacy work with its fans through social media and digital ads, organizing, and online tools. Last year’s Justice ReMix’d flavor also highlighted the work of Ben & Jerry’s racial justice non-profit partner.
About Ben & Jerry's As an aspiring social justice company, Ben & Jerry's believes in a greater calling than simply making a profit for selling its goods. The company produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream, yogurt and sorbet using high-quality ingredients. Ben & Jerry's incorporates its vision of Linked Prosperity into its business practices in a number of ways including a focus on values-led sourcing. In 2015 the company completed its transition to using entirely non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients by source as well as to fully source Fairtrade-certified ingredients wherever possible, which benefits farmers in developing countries. Ben< & Jerry's products are distributed in 35 countries in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, franchise Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops, restaurants and other venues. Ben & Jerry's, a Vermont corporation and wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward and a commitment to the community. Ben & Jerry's became a certified B Corp in 2012. The Ben & Jerry's Foundation's employee-led grant programs totaled $3MM in 2019 to support grassroots organizing for social and environmental justice around the country.
About Advancement Project National Office Advancement Project National Office is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org
For media inquiries:
Public Elations Manager, Ben & Jerry’s
Zerline Hughes Spruill
Managing Director of Communications, Advancement Project National Office