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November 19, 2021: COMPASSIONATE RELEASE and BOP COVID-19 BLOG


Quick Facts (Full BOP Stats can be found here) Currently positive-testing inmates: 95(down from 121) Currently positive-testing staff: 263 (unchanged) Recovered inmates: 42,295 (down from 42,316) Recovered staff: 8,414 (unchanged)


Institutions with the largest number of currently positive-testing inmates:

McKean FCI: 19 (up from 17)

Hazelton FCI: 6

Butner FMC: 5

Institutions with the largest number of currently positive-testing staff:

Florence ADMAX USP: 17 (unchanged)

Central Office HQ: 16 (unchanged)

Carswell FMC: 13 (unchanged)

System-wide testing results: Presently, BOP has 133,835 federal inmates in BOP-managed institutions and 15,019 in community-based facilities. Today's stats: Completed tests: 125,427 (up from 125,279) Positive tests: 41,976 (down from 42,069)


Total vaccine doses administered: 252,397 (unchanged)

News Note: Chandra Bozelko, a former inmate and now a Harry Frank Guggenheim Reporting Fellow at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, argues in a recent article in the medical newsletter Stat that "Vaccine mandates should cover the incarcerated, too, not just prison guards and workers," explaining:


Federal, state, and local vaccine mandates are being opposed by several high-profile groups, including firefighters, nurses, and corrections officers. Opposition of the latter to vaccine mandates highlights an illogical situation that has developed with little discussion: To date, neither the federal government nor any state or municipality has officially mandated the jab for their incarcerated populations.


That doesn’t make sense: Prisoners, who are at higher risk for infection and death than corrections officers, aren’t required to get vaccinated while corrections officers, who are at lower risk, are being told they must get vaccinated.


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When the pandemic emerged, prisons and jails quickly became Covid hot spots; the lack of freedom and space heightens the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 from person to person. Prisoners are more than five times more likely to contract the virus and three times more likely to die from it than people outside, some of whom are subject to vaccine mandates.


Incarcerated people were at such high risk of catching Covid-19 that Congress authorized the release of prisoners to home confinement in last year’s CARES Act. Many states distributed shots to their incarcerated wards before they let people who weren’t in custody get them. Vaccination is so important in this population that the first set of incentives for it were developed within corrections departments: In January 2021, the state of Virginia rewarded prisoners willing to get vaccinated with telephone credits and care packages, Pennsylvania deposited cash into prisoners’ accounts, and Massachusetts gave prisoners five days off their sentences before the governor rescinded the policy. Georgia and Mississippi — two states known for their disregard for the rights of the incarcerated — handed out snacks and sweets to entice them to get the vaccine. Such a deviation in treatment suggests that this was extremely important to the safety of the facilities.


None of the existing vaccine mandates, however, apply to the incarcerated. And not for any legal reason. Pfizer’s vaccine has full FDA approval, so some states are requiring vaccination of people in the criminal legal system. In Ohio, judges have imposed conditions of probation that include getting the shot, and re-incarceration is a penalty for refusing it.


Omitting prisoners from vaccine mandates isn’t the first instance of exempting prisoners from mandatory protective practices. In at least three states — Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Washington — guards face masking mandates but prisoners don’t. I can find no scientific justification for exempting prisoners from either mask or vaccination mandates; in fact, lack of vaccination likely violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.


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The rights of incarcerated individuals to self-determination are limited. But expanding them shouldn’t start with the choice to shun a shot that authorities as wide ranging as the president, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their own wardens say will help them survive. Some prisoners don’t want the vaccine; if politicians don’t feel comfortable ordering them to comply, then they must realize that imposing the requirement on employees who have a better chance at avoiding the virus doesn’t make sense and may provide ammunition to anti-vaxxers.


Death Watch (Note: The BOP press website announces BOP COVID-related deaths here.) The BOP has identified no new COVID-19 fatality. Total inmate COVID-related deaths remain at 267. Ten of the inmate fatalities died while on home confinement. Staff deaths remain at 7.



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