OKLAHOMA CITY — In response to Oklahoma State Department of Health’s press conference regarding Oklahoma’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out plans, the ACLU of Oklahoma sent a letter today reminding the Governor of his constitutional responsibility to ensure people who are incarcerated in Oklahoma prisons and jails are included in the same phase as all others in congregate living situations, such as nursing home, assisted living, and long-term care facility residents.
The following statement is attributable Nicole McAfee, ACLU of Oklahoma Director of Policy and Advocacy:
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, people incarcerated in Oklahoma prisons and jails have suffered disproportionately, without adequate response from the state or county governments. As we have seen time and time again, COVID-19 is not deterred by prison walls. People who are incarcerated are in the custody of our state, and Oklahoma’s crowded facilities and poor conditions have left them in harm’s way through every wave of the outbreak to date. As Oklahoma’s unmitigated spread puts us on the forefront of vaccine access, it is critical Governor Stitt and the Oklahoma State Department of Health do not discriminate against people on the basis of which type of congregate facility they are in, and rather, ensure the first round of vaccines reach the facilities least able to provide safe protocol for mitigation, including Oklahoma prisons and jails.
Almost a quarter of people in Oklahoma Department of Corrections Custody have contracted COVID-19. The impact numbers for Oklahoma jails are unknown. Yet Oklahoma prisons and jails are currently excluded from necessary, urgent access to the vaccine in Phase 1. Any decision Oklahoma leaders make about vaccine rollout in Oklahoma prisons and jails disproportionately impacts communities of color, especially Black and Indigenous people, who are disproportionately incarcerated in our state. Governor Stitt and the Oklahoma State Department of Health have a legal and moral responsibility, grounded in public health data, to explicitly include people who are incarcerated in the congregate living category of Phase 1 of the vaccination plan.”