Dr. Priscilla Chan — philanthropist, pediatrician, teacher, co-founder and co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and spouse of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — is the newest addition to the executive board of criminal justice organization, REFORM Alliance. She joins a list of notable names in business, entertainment and philanthropy, including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Michael Rubin, Van Jones, Robert Kraft, and Robert F. Smith.
REFORM Alliance launched in 2019 after Grammy-nominated American rapper Meek Mill received a two-to-four year sentence for posting videos doing “wheelies” on a dirt bike in 2017. His heavy-handed sentence sparked the international #FreeMeek movement, which eventually led to his freedom. REFORM was founded by a world-class group of activists and philanthropists to help people trapped in the criminal justice system who do not have the resources and public platform that aided Meek Mill. The organization states that their mission is to “transform probation and parole by changing laws, systems and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing.”
Among the Founding Partners of REFORM Alliance is philanthropist and entrepreneur Robert F. Smith. Smith regularly advocates for, donates to, and supports several organizations dedicated to equity, and he joined REFORM Alliance because he is committed to reforming bias in the criminal justice system.
The Health Impact of Incarceration
Chan is the first medical doctor to join the REFORM board, bringing a new perspective on the public health challenges caused by mass incarceration in the United States. For instance, a report by The Marshall Project found that one in five prisoners contracted COVID-19 — a case rate four times higher than the general population. Additionally, those trapped in the criminal justice system experience far higher rates of chronic health problems, substance use and mental illness than the general population, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. Earlier this year, Chan and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced a $450 million commitment to advocacy groups FWD.US and The Just Trust in effort to advance criminal reform advocacy efforts across the U.S.
“Mass incarceration is a public health crisis that affects all communities across the country. Solving this systemic issue requires a comprehensive strategy that includes sensible policy change, and I’m proud to join REFORM and collaborate on these efforts,” Chan said in a statement to Insider. “The organization is equipped with the right tools — including strong bipartisan leadership — to spearhead legislation that will protect the well-being of our communities while significantly transforming the probation and parole system.”
Robert F. Smith has long been an advocate for social justice.. To help jumpstart the organization in its earliest stages, Smith donated $5 million to REFORM Alliance. Additionally, in 2020 Smith and REFORM led advocacy efforts to sign AB 1950 into law in California — a law that limits adult probation sentence maximums to one year for misdemeanors and two years for felonies. This was the first major legislative win for REFORM Alliance, and co-founder Jay-Z described it as “the most transformative probation bill in this country to date.”
Learn more about REFORM Alliance and the work that they do.