The Freakout About Giving COVID Vaccines to Prisoners Has Already Begun
Toward the end of a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was asked about a proposal to give the state’s prisoners early access to the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine. Polis replied that no prisoners would be prioritized to get vaccinated before the free seniors or people with coronavirus-related health risks. “There’s no way it’s going to go to prisoners,” he chuckled, “before it goes to people who haven’t committed any crime. That’s obvious.”
In October, Colorado’s public health department issued a draft plan that prioritized prisoners and other people in “congregate housing,” like homeless shelters and college dorms, for vaccination following health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, and public safety personnel, including corrections officers. As in the rest of the country, prisons and jails have been the site of some of Colorado’s largest COVID outbreaks. Prisoners’ case rates are more than 550 percent higher than the state’s as a whole; rates for prison staff are 200 percent higher. The vast majority of the state’s disproportionately Black and brown incarcerated population has spent the pandemic locked up in close quarters, sharing cells, bathrooms, dayrooms, and dining halls.