Prisoners Across The State Of Tennessee Are Considered “High-risk” When It Comes To The Covid-19 Pandemic, But A Tennessee Advisory Panel Has Recently Assigned Them To The Final Wave Of Vaccinations.
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Published March 8, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Prisoners across the state of Tennessee are considered “high-risk” when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic, but a Tennessee Advisory Panel has recently assigned them to the final wave of vaccinations. The panel deemed prioritizing them as a “public relations nightmare.” There has not been an official date decided on when inmates in the state will be receiving their vaccines, but they have been pushed to the bottom of the priority list.
However, the Pandemic Vaccine Planning Stakeholder group, has said that these prisoners “if untreated they will be a vector of general population transmission.” The records of the closed-door meeting have come from The Associated Press.
Tennessee is not the only state that has shown resistance in prioritizing inmates. Since the beginning of the pandemic, medical officials have been calling this group “high-risk” because of the close living quarters they are in.
One of the documents from a panel meeting states, “Understand it would be a (public relations) nightmare but a possible liability to the state” if this group was given higher priority.
Jeannie Alexander, the executive director of the No Exceptions Prison Collective, has said, “It shows a lack of morality and an absence of empathy to allow someone to die or expose them to greater risk because they happen to be incarcerated. … Before anyone was ever imprisoned they were someone’s child, mother, brother, father, or sister first, and they remain so and they should be considered, cared for, and seen as such,” in relation to the debate.
A few months ago, The Associated Press and The Marshall Project set out to see how the Covid-19 pandemic was affecting the prison population across the country. The results found that 1 in 5 inmates in federal prisoners had contracted the virus. While these cases have recently begun a decline, they are still higher than the infection rate of the general population.
In Tennessee alone, 1 in 3 prisoners have been diagnosed with Covid-19, which makes them 24th in the country for cases in inmates. Out of those cases, forty have died since the start of the pandemic.
While documents from meetings with the Pandemic Vaccine Planning Stakeholder group showed that the group was concerned about the inmate population, they eventually deemed that prioritizing them would end up leading to “lots of media inquiries.”
The advisory panel is comprised of 40 public health agencies, as well as lawmakers and other organizations. Since the panel exists purely as an advisory role, they do not have to meet publicly or record their meetings. The documents received by The Associated Press are the only records of what they discussed.
In one of the documents, it reads that, “If we get hit hard in jails it affects the whole community. Disease leaves corrections facilities and reenters general society as inmates cycle out of their sentencing, it is the taxpayers that have to absorb the bill for treatment.”
While inmates are in the last eligibility group, the meetings led to jailers and corrections workers getting bumped up on the list of priority.