Statement from Vera on Prioritizing Access to the COVID-19 Vaccine for People in Jails, Prisons, and Detention Centers

Today, in an emergency meeting, the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices will vote to decide who will be the first to receive the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine. Most congregate settings have already been named and prioritized given their high risk. The 2.3 million people who are incarcerated in the United States and the tens of thousands of staff working in correctional facilities are also vulnerable to infection and should also be prioritized.

From the beginning of the pandemic, people who live and work in jails, prisons, and detention centers have been at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Since March, when the first known COVID-19-related death in a correctional facility was reported, there have been at least 252,000 incarcerated people and correctional employees that have tested positive and almost 1,500 deaths. In immigration detention centers, 7,152 immigrants have tested positive at 104 of the 200 facilities in which ICE maintains beds. The combination of crowded living conditions where social distancing is not possible, incarcerated populations at higher risk for health issues, and inadequate access to PPE and basic health care in correctional facilities is a threat to the safety and dignity of millions.

Incarcerated people are members of our communities and deserving of care. Unless prioritized, the spread of COVID-19 in jails, prisons, and detention centers will continue driving the overall pandemic curve upward, diminishing efforts to prevent and contain the virus.

About the Vera Institute of Justice:

The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice. Vera collaborates with the communities most impacted by these systems and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement change. Across projects, Vera is committed to explicitly and effectively reducing the burdens of the justice system on people of color and frames all work with an understanding of our country’s history of racial oppression. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, providing legal services for immigrants, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities. Vera has offices in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, DC; New Orleans, and Los Angeles.

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