Judge rules New York must offer vaccine to prisoners
A New York judge ruled Monday that state officials must start vaccinating all incarcerated people in the state’s jails and prisons, according to multiple reports.
Justice Alison Y. Tuitt of the New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx ruled that officials had arbitrarily left out people living in prisons and jails from vaccination efforts, calling the move “unfair and unjust.”
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, adding that “there is no acceptable excuse for this deliberate exclusion.”
“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, according to multiple reports.
Around 1,100 detainees in New York City jails have already received doses of the vaccine, according to The New York Times. Incarcerated people ages 65 and older began receiving inoculations last month.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office said following the ruling the state’s coronavirus vaccine eligibility would be expanded to incarcerated individuals on Tuesday.
“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,” Beth Garvey, acting counsel to the governor, said in a Monday statement, noting that 19,246 New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision staff and incarcerated individuals have been vaccinated across the state.
At least 1,100 prisoners in New York have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of last month, and five prisoners have died, according to The Times.
States across the country have taken differing approaches to vaccinating incarcerated people. While all of the people in prison in Massachusetts have been offered a vaccine, other states have not yet made prisoners eligible for the inoculation.