In August 2020, the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) founded The Covid Justice Coalition (CJC). This coalition of advocacy groups aims to provide resources and guidance on the COVID-related needs of justice-involved individuals to local government agencies, advocacy groups and other key stakeholders.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, justice-involved people have been vulnerable medically and financially, leading to lasting effects that will continue after the pandemic is over.
More recently, CJC launched a campaign demanding that The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) use trusted groups to administer vaccines and report data on vaccination rates. Many incarcerated people have experienced substandard medical care, had their confidentiality breached or are aware of the shameful history of medical experimentation on incarcerated people and people of color in the United States.
A letter authored by the CJC and signed by more than nearly 100 advocates demanded that the New York DOCCS use trusted outside groups to administer the vaccine to those incarcerated, as well as offering vaccine education to both incarcerated individuals and their families. The CJC also calls for transparency in vaccination reporting, requiring the vaccination rates to be publicly available and broken down by facility, age, and race/ethnicity to prevent potential inequities.
As of April 2021, DOCCS reported that only 25% of the total population of incarcerated people had been vaccinated. While more that are currently incarcerated would get the vaccine, the number lags behind rates in other states, such as Colorado (76.5%), Arizona (76.37%), Maryland (72.4%), Alaska (72.9%) and California (71.9%). In 14 states, prisons have vaccinated their incarcerated populations at a rate higher than the general population.
Currently, there is a deep distrust of prison medical staff and wariness about the care being provided. Many don’t believe that the prison is working in their best interest.
Read the letter from the COVID Justice Coalition to New York Governor Cuomo, as well as the press release, for more information about the CJC’s demands.