HARTFORD – Ahead of Governor Ned Lamont’s press conference regarding Connecticut’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out plans, the ACLU of Connecticut sent a letter today reminding the Governor of his constitutional responsibility to ensure people who are incarcerated are included in the same tier as all others in congregate living situations, such as nursing homes and psychiatric facilities. The Governor is set to announce his vaccination rollout plans during a press conference on Thursday.
The following is a statement from David McGuire, ACLU of Connecticut executive director:
“People who are incarcerated are people, and the close proximities and poor conditions in Connecticut prisons and jails have left them in harm’s way from COVID-19. Incarcerated people, who are in congregate living situations with no control over their abilities to distance or fates, should be included in the same vaccine rollout tier as all other people in congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes and psychiatric facilities. Governor Lamont, who has been the nexus of Connecticut’s COVID-19 response, must ensure that Connecticut does not discriminate against people on the basis of which type of congregate facility they are in, but must instead base his vaccination response on the scientific and public health evidence that clearly shows prisons and jails are among the least healthy places for people to be during this pandemic. Any decision the Lamont administration makes regarding vaccination rollout in the Department of Correction also disproportionately affects the lives of people of color, as systemic racism has made Connecticut’s prisons and jails 70 percent Black and Latino. When the state decides to incarcerate someone, it assumes the legal and moral responsibility to keep them safe and healthy, a responsibility Connecticut must uphold during its COVID-19 vaccination rollout. We call on Governor Lamont to explicitly include incarcerated people in the congregate living tier of his vaccination plan during his Thursday vaccine rollout announcement, and we are requesting a virtual meeting with the Governor, his staff, the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, DOC, and the co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee to discuss this issue.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases has risen in Connecticut in November, the population rate of new cases in the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) has been higher than the rate in Connecticut’s overall population. During the month of November, there have been 257 new infections in the month of November in DOC prisons and jails, representing 2.78% of people incarcerated in Connecticut DOC prisons and jails, according to the DOC’s self-reported numbers. According to data reported by the Connecticut Department of Health, during that same timeframe, there have been 46,088 new cases of COVID-19 infections in Connecticut, representing approximately 1.25% of the state’s overall population. There have been 461 new infections in nursing homes for the month of November, representing 2.56% of occupied beds. Today at Cheshire Correctional Institution and Osborn Correctional Institution, at least 8% of the population and 7.7% of the population, respectively, are positive for COVID-19.
“Value the lives of incarcerated people, 70% of whom are Black and Latino, by treating them equally to all residents living within congregate living settings. We understand that the state’s first priority is to ensure that hospitals and first responders can rely on a substantial supply of vaccines. We are asking that you ensure any rollout of vaccines targeting congregate living settings is inclusive of Connecticut’s prisons and jail, but more specifically incarcerated people who live in those facilities,” wrote Claudine Fox, ACLU of Connecticut campaign manager, in the letter to Governor Lamont.
The ACLU of Connecticut has twice sued Governor Lamont and the Connecticut Department of Correction in an effort to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19. Under a federal settlement in one of those cases, in effect from July 20 until December 31, the Department of Correction is legally required to adhere to specific mask, testing, hygiene, sanitation, and health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s prisons and jails. In an October 28 letter, the ACLU of Connecticut announced “systemic patterns of non-compliance by the Department of Correction” with the majority of those measures.