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Prisoners Getting Vaccine is Good Policy, Science: ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is vowing to take legal action if incarcerated individuals are not prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines. The advocacy group’s Executive Director Anthony Romero specifically pointed to comments made by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis indicating prisoners should be in the back of the vaccine line in an op-ed enumerating the groups opposition to such policies.

prison icon 2071965 640 smallSpecifically, Romero took issues with a declaration from Polis cited in The Denver Post that indicated “there’s no way” the vaccine should be distributed to prisoners ahead of those who “haven’t committed any crime.”

“Governor Polis’ instinct to throw incarcerated people under the bus is sadly typical, and we shouldn’t allow sentiments like that to poison the national discussion around vaccine access and distribution,” reads the op-ed.

According to him, distributing the vaccine to prisoners is “a matter of science, law, and basic humanity.”


Fault Lines @AJFaultLines Dec 23

"Incarcerated people should be prioritized in receiving COVID-19 #vaccines, the @AmerMedicalAssn has said. In California's San Quentin prison, 28 incarcerated men died from the virus. One was Eric Warner. His brother shares their story. Full episode:"

Romero argues the science behind distributing the vaccine to prisoners is sound as carceral environments have been virus-spreading hotspots. He says these settings are too crowded and too unhygienic for appropriate social distancing. This leads to a much higher death rate from COVID-19 than the rest of the general population, he said. “Individuals living in carceral settings also have higher rates of disability and chronic health issues that heighten their risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19,” he wrote. “As just one illustration, public health experts note that incarcerated people should be treated as though they are 10 to 15 years older than their biological age.”


Kathy Flaherty @ConnConnection Dec 23

"Thank you @wnprwheelhouse for elevating issue of vaccines for people who are incarcerated. Please also remember that people are stuck in inpatient psychiatric facilities too who should also be included in group 1B, or be released so people could more effectively social distance."

Romero also pointed out that many public health experts have supported lawsuits and advocacy efforts by the ACLU to bolster protective measures for incarcerated individuals. According to the group, it recently helped secure a legal victory in Orange County, California to cut its prison population in half as a way to ensure proper social distancing can be achieved.

“The science-driven arguments apply equally to vaccine distribution: The faster we get vaccines into detention settings, the faster we can protect everyone, both inside and out,” Romero said. “The law also supports the science. The Constitution protects individuals who are incarcerated and therefore unable to protect themselves. To that end, government officials must take reasonable efforts to protect those in their custody from becoming infected with COVID-19.”

Colorado has been in the COVID-19 spotlight as it was the location of the first known U.S. patient to test positively for the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus. Polis, along with state health officials, announced the Colorado State Laboratory confirmed the instance of the variant found in the U.K. According to the governor’s office, the individual is a man older than 20 and he has been isolated.

“There is a lot we don’t know about this new COVID-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious. The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely. We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels,” said Polis.

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