If you’re having trouble getting the COVID vaccine in California, maybe you want to try your hand at entering the state’s prison system where things seem to be humming along while those on the outside, many who’ve lost their livelihoods and could possibly struggle the rest of their lives, wait their turn to get vaccinated.
The Los Angeles Times reports 40% of prisoners inside the California corrections system have been vaccinated and “almost 70% of incarcerated people who have been offered the vaccine have accepted it,” the newspaper reports this week. That news led Sharon Dolovich, a UCLA law professor who runs a COVID jail data project to tell the newspaper that the number of prisoners vaccinated in California is “incredibly high.”
Since COVID started its march across the United States, the California prison system has suffered 211 prisoner deaths. Let me repeat, 211 prisoner deaths across the entire state. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the state’s prison population was 114,374 on March 11, 2020. 26 CDCR staff members “deaths appear to be due to complications related to COVID-19,” the agency reports.
Meanwhile, up the coast in Oregon, in early February, a federal judge ordered the state to move prisoners ahead of seniors for the vaccine. As of the ruling by the judge, Oregon had suffered 40 COVID-related prisoner deaths. Yep, 40.
The federal judge ruled that inmates couldn’t be moved down the priority list because it violated inmates’ rights.
“Our constitutional rights are not suspended during a crisis. On the contrary, during difficult times we must remain the most vigilant to protect the constitutional rights of the powerless. Even when faced with limited resources, the state must fulfill its duty of protecting those in its custody,” US Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman wrote in her ruling.
In Florida, prisoners are waiting.
Just this week, a 67-year-old man accused of a double-murder tried to move up in the vaccine line, but he was denied by a judge who ruled in favor of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and denied George McCray’s request to get the vaccine. McCray, a military vet, was attempting to move up in line at the VA.
McCray had eight previous felony convictions before being charged in the 2016 murder of his 20-year-old girlfriend and her 50-year-old friend.