Van Jones says there's an urgent matter to address related to the coronavirus pandemic -- protecting prisoners from it ... in order to protect society as a whole.
The Reform Alliance CEO told us Tuesday on "TMZ Live" ... COVID-19 hitting the prison systems would be a catastrophe, but President Trump and the federal government have the power and opportunity to nip it in the bud.
Van says the First Step Act -- which Trump signed into law in December 2018 -- allows for "compassionate release" of qualifying prisoners ... meaning low-level and non-violent offenders. In this case, that could include older, ailing prisoners more at-risk of contracting COVID-19.
He wants these inmates released ASAP -- before they contract the virus -- so they can go into home confinement and help slow the spread.
Van says this would be huge in controlling coronavirus in prisons, where inmates are unable to practice social distancing or even use hand sanitizers. No alcohol allowed. He adds, this is best for the protection of guards and other prison staffers, too.
Bottom line ... he says the Prez should make "compassionate release" a priority because prison can quickly become a "petri dish" for the virus.