NEW YORK — On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that the state of Oregon must immediately offer the Covid-19 vaccination to all incarcerated people in the state, a decision which will not impact the timeline of vaccinations for other at-risk residents. JustLeadershipUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins issued the following statement in response:
“We commend U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman for protecting the health and safety of the nearly 15,000 people incarcerated in Oregon state prisons. The judge’s ruling that incarcerated people must be treated as members of the same group of people who work in correctional facilities, or live in residential care facilities, or are in adult foster care, correctly prioritizes their health, their human dignity, and uplifts their common humanity.
“As we have made clear, social distancing is impossible in correctional facilities, and Black and brown incarcerated people are — and always have been — the most at risk of natural disasters in correctional facilities, from hurricanes and floods to pandemics. We MUST prioritize their human rights, and make sure that the Covid-19 vaccine is available to all people, not just some.
“But providing this vaccine is just one step. As we have seen from the syphilis experiments on Black men by at the Tuskegee Institute from 1932 to 1972 — as well as the horrendous fistula treatments on enslaved women in the 1840s — there is an earned distrust of the medical and science industry among marginalized communities. The fact remains that the public health community and the government have NOT yet reckoned with this legacy of brutality and racism. It is absolutely vital that they publicly recognize their entwined history of systemic racism, and provide the education necessary to reduce the hesitancy of the vaccine.
“Finally, we urge more states to follow Oregon’s lead, and prioritize incarcerated people for this vaccine. No one deserves to die in jail, ever.”