A group of Oregon inmates who filed a class action lawsuit against the State Department of Corrections in April are now demanding that they and their fellow inmates be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
Juan Chavez, an attorney representing the class, told KOIN 6 News that Oregon’s inability – or unwillingness – to vaccinate inmates against a potentially fatal disease could be a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
Chavez told the station that his clients want the federal government to step in and force the corrections department to better protect their wards.
In his interview with KOIN 6 News, Chavez noted that Oregon had made the questionable decision to vaccinate comparatively healthy members of the public from at-risk inmates.
Chavez backed up his case by claiming that Oregon inmates died disproportionately from coronavirus.
“What we knew in April would become shockingly clear very soon if we didn’t change course,” said Chavez. “Breathing droplets collect in interiors like prisons. And people would get very, very sick if we didn’t make changes. This is the sad evidence that we have known all along. “
Chavez’s take on the pandemic was supported by the Department of Corrections’ own publications.
An illustration of the novel coronavirus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is responsible for COVID-19. Image from CDC via Unsplash.com.
Jennifer Black, communications manager for the agency, said the department had had the pandemic severe – especially in recent days.
“As the past few days have shown, Oregon’s prisons have not escaped the devastating effects of COVID-19,” Black wrote in an email to OPB.com. “More than half of the DOC’s incarcerated population was classified as at risk of COVID-19 using standard community criteria. Generally, incarcerated people are in poorer health than their peers in the community, and Oregon has one of the oldest incarcerated populations in the country. “
Almost half a dozen prisoners died of coronavirus last Sunday and Monday; Hundreds more have positive diagnoses.
“This is heartbreaking, but not surprising,” Chavez said in another interview with OPB.com. “They died because our state wouldn’t question mass imprisonment, even if these people’s lives depended on it.”
And despite the apologetic rhetoric from the Corrections Department, the prisons appear to be failing to take adequate measures to protect vulnerable inmates from the coronavirus.
“We have heard from several people that even if asked to stay in your bunk, your unit is locked, sitting next to people who have tested positive for the disease,” Chavez told KTVB7.
Only about 1,300 inmates have been vaccinated against the disease so far, according to Chavez. He urges the state to protect the rest as soon as possible.
A class action lawsuit calls for immediate vaccination of all inmates in Oregon
COVID-19 deaths in Oregon prisons are on the rise
Lawyer Urges Vaccinations In Prisons As COVID Cases Rise, Deaths Rise