A CLOSER LOOK: getting inmates and corrections staff vaccinated for COVID-19

A Closer Look

We’re developing a plan to vaccinate inmates with the ADH and Wellpath

Taken this focused picture of the main entrance of a jail with people waking aware from it. Tried to capture the convict escorted by three security personal. Getty Images.

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — A new 48-state survey by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) shows whether states are prioritizing inmates in their COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Thirty-six of the 48 states addressed incarcerated people as a priority, but correctional staff would get the vaccine before inmates, according to the survey.

Pennsylvania and Minnesota were the two states that did not make their plans available, according to PPI, “we don’t know whether/when they’re going to be offering vaccines to incarcerated people and prison staff.”

Twelve states did not have inmates mentioned in any phase of their vaccine allotment, and eight of the 12 didn’t have correctional staff listed in their plans, according to PPI.

The report said many state plans did not distinguish between prisons and jails.

The states were required to submit vaccination proposal plans using guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It was encouraged to create three-phased plans for vaccine distribution, depending on vaccine distribution. A few of the state plans included a sub-Phase, for example, Phase1A, Phase2A, Phase 3A.

  • Phase 1: Potentially Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Available
  • Phase 2: Large Number of Doses Available; Supply Likely to Meet Demand
  • Phase 3: Likely Sufficient Supply

In Phase 1, four states, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, and New Mexico, included incarcerated people and corrections staff. Seven states only included corrections staff, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

Arkansas, along with 11 other states did not include inmates in any Phase. The other states were Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

In Arkansas, getting state prison inmates vaccinated is a work in progress. “We’re developing a plan to vaccinate inmates with the Arkansas Department of Health and Wellpath, our medical provider,” said ADC Communications Director Cindy Murphy.

Right now, there are 87 employees out with COVID-19, according to Murphy.

The state’s total inmate population for the Division of Correction was 16,215 in September — there were 219 new inmates and 520 released, according to ADC Director Dexter Payne’s Board Report for October 2020. Fifty inmates have died either directly from the virus, or due to underlying health issues, according to ADC data.

The Board of Prisons (BOP) does not have a Phase 1,2,3 plan for inmates at the Arkansas federal prison in St. Francis County. However, in a subdivided phase, Phase 1B, per PPI’s survey data. It does include employees of state correctional facilities to get vaccinated.

The BOP website shows 125 inmates and 36 staff active cases at FCI Forrest City Medium/Low as of December 8.

The Marshall Project reports as of December 1, 227,333 people in prisons have tested positive for COVID-19, and 166,441 have recovered. Among prison staff nationally, there have been at least 56,496 virus cases and 105 deaths.

ARKANSAS’ INTERIM DRAFT VACCINATION PLAN, 10/16/2020

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