Let’s also prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers in this country!

Now it the time to take action to secure vaccinations for the incarcerated in this country!

On December 11, the Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine.  Since then, FDA has issued a another emergency use authorization for a second COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also issued recommendations for the groups that should receive the vaccine first.  Receiving highest priority in the recommendation are healthcare workers and long-term care residents.  The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, is planning to release further guidance following public comment.

As you know, Gamaliel took a position early in the pandemic about the need to protect people residing in facilities that are particularly vulnerable as a result of over-crowding.  In particular, our focus was on slowing arrests and decarcerating the jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers in this country.

Because states are in the process of establishing additional priorities for distribution of the vaccine, we have the opportunity RIGHT NOW to impact their decisions.  Reach out to your county officials, your state department of corrections, and/or your governor’s office.  Explain to them:

  • Like nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bring vaccine in for the employees of corrections facilities and not vaccinate the residents at the same time (or vice versa); that would be an unwise use of resources requiring twice as many trips to vaccinate folks in the same facility.
  • Many people aren’t aware of how common chronic illnesses are among U.S. prison inmates (very common), or how old many prison inmates are (surprisingly older on average, due to long prison terms, “truth in sentencing” laws, etc.).
  • Prisons (and other congregate correctional facilities, like jails, etc.) are extremely high-risk for COVID spread because physical distancing is impossible under the best of circumstances and because prison facilities across much of the country are overcrowded, well beyond design capacity.
  • As with long-term care facilities, unvaccinated staff are the ones most likely to bring virus into jails and prisons, while older and sicker inmates are, on average, more likely to become seriously ill or die.  Either way, facility outbreaks put staff at risk, which in turn puts communities at risk.

This is a critical moment in our history as a country; it is no time for business as usual.  We have a moral obligation to act immediately and aggressively to stop the spread of the virus and protect ALL of the members of our communities.


In solidarity,
Ana Garcia-Ashley, Executive Director