New York excluded prisons from their COVID-19 vaccine rollout. A judge ruled they had to immediately vaccinate inmates.

Rikers island NYC prison
A sign marks the location of the Rikers Correctional Center in the East River on March 9, 2021 in New York City.
  • A New York Judge ruled the state had to immediately vaccinate prison inmates.
  • Some demographics of inmates were eligible but the entire population was excluded from the rollout.
  • However, other groups that lived in congregate facilities such as nursing homes were eligible.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A New York judge ruled that the state's COVID-19 vaccination rollout policies that excluded prisons unfairly denied prisoners access to the vaccine and ordered the state to immediately begin vaccinating inmates.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice Alison Y. Tuitt called leaving out inmates "unfair and unjust" and an "abuse of discretion," in a ruling Tuesday.

The state has allowed corrections staff to get vaccinated as well as other groups in close congregate living settings like nursing homes, but inmates who are also high risk were excluded.

Tuitt said the protocol "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."

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed last month from two Rikers Island inmates.

As of Tuesday, A total of 6,314 incarcerated people have tested positive for COVID-19 with 35 deaths, according to state data. Additionally, 4,951 staff have contracted the virus, with eight deaths.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office did not reply to Insider's request for comment but told ABC News that as of Tuesday 822 of 1,066 inmates 65 years or older were vaccinated, more than a month after the state allowed elderly inmates to be vaccinated.

On March 5, the state also allowed inmates with comorbidities to get a vaccine.

CBS reported that so far, 7,538 prison staff members had received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 3,374 people who are imprisoned.

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