*A New York state judge ruled on Monday that all incarcerated people in the state’s prisons and jails must get COVID vaccinated.
According to reports, 35 inmates and eight staff members have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 1,000 inmates have reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks, and five have died.
Per The Hill, Justice Alison Y. Tuitt of the New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx ruled that it was “unfair and unjust” for officials to leave inmates out of its vaccine rollout. The judge noted that it was “an abuse of discretion.”
Officials “irrationally distinguished between incarcerated people and people living in every other type of adult congregate facility, at great risk to incarcerated people’s lives during this pandemic,” Tuitt wrote on Monday.
“In all material respects, incarcerated adults face the same heightened risk of infection, serious illness, and death, as people living in other congregate settings, and even more so than juveniles in detention centers, where individuals have been prioritized for the vaccine,” she continued.
“Governor Cuomo’s decision to withhold the vaccine from the people confined to dense, congregate settings of jails and prisons always ignored the unambiguous public health guidance that called for priority vaccinations in this uniquely dangerous setting…”https://t.co/we7kxjYzqm
— The Legal Aid Society (@LegalAidNYC) March 30, 2021
According to reports, incarcerated people ages 65 and older began receiving inoculations last month.
“Governor Cuomo’s decision to withhold the vaccine from the people confined to dense, congregate settings of jails and prisons always ignored the unambiguous public health guidance that called for priority vaccinations in this uniquely dangerous setting, and exacerbated the vastly disproportionate toll of this virus on Black and Latinx communities,” said Mary Lynne Werlwas, director of the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project.
Following the ruling, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said the state’s coronavirus vaccine eligibility will be expanded to include incarcerated individuals.
“The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision began vaccinating staff and incarcerated individuals on February 5, and as of March 27, more than 19,246 vaccinations have been administered,” Beth Garvey, acting counsel to the governor, said in a Monday statement. “Tomorrow, the state will expand eligibility to include New Yorkers age 30 and older for the general population, and we will expand eligibility to include all incarcerated individuals whether in state or local facilities. Our goal all along has been to implement a vaccination program that is fair and equitable, and these changes will help ensure that continues to happen.”
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 6,270 COVID cases have been reported among inmates and 4,925 corrections officers have tested positive, according to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).