Inmates among the most vulnerable for COVID

Signs made by prisoners pleading for help in a window. Photo courtesy

COVID-19 has impacted just about every age group, gender and race in the world. Everyone is in danger of being infected every time they step foot outside of their homes or allow someone new to come in.

There are only a select few groups of people who have little to no control over their exposure to the virus, and prison inmates are at the top of that list. They are confined to their facilities where guards and staff members enter and exit, carrying their germs with them.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, 1,620 federal inmates and 1,674 Federal Bureau of Prison staff members have confirmed positive test results nationwide. The Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Tallahassee holds the dubious record for the most positive inmates out of all the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

FCI Tallahassee is a low security level, all female prison that currently houses over 824 inmates. Located on Capital Circle NE, FCI Tallahassee is classified as a level 2 medical care facility. According to the BOP website, most level 2 medical care facility inmates are medically stable, but may suffer from medication-controlled diabetes, epilepsy, or emphysema.

According to the Florida Department of Health, FCI Tallahassee has had 0 COVID-19 related deaths. The other BOP facilities haven’t been as lucky. According to the BOP’s website, 220 federal inmates have died from complications of the disease. The BOP’s Public Information Officer, Scott Taylor, said the BOP has taken swift and effective action in response to COVID-19.

“The BOP instituted a comprehensive management approach that includes screening, testing, appropriate treatment, prevention, education, and infection control measures in response to COVID-19,” Taylor told The Famuan. “The BOP took aggressive action to limit internal and external movement, understanding that movement could increase the risk of transmission throughout our facilities. However, the BOP is required by law to accept inmates awaiting trial remanded to our custody as well as newly convicted inmates for service of their sentence.”

Taylor later confirmed that a plan to offer the vaccine to the entire inmate population has been made but cannot happen until additional doses are made available.

“The BOP continues to work with the CDC and the federal government’s COVID-19 Vaccine/Therapeutics Operation (formerly known as Operation Warp Speed) to receive, distribute, and administer the COVID-19 vaccine as it is made available,” Taylor said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has made it clear that he is focused on vaccinating seniors at this time and his administration is not saying when inmates who are in that age group will be made eligible or if they are a priority at all.

“We are looking out for our parents and grandparents here in Florida,” he said ata news briefing in The Villages senior community.“So far, Florida has done a higher percentage of vaccinations to its senior citizens than any other state in the country.”

The BOP does not determine when doses will be made available to inmates; the federal government’s COVID-19 Vaccine/Therapeutics Operation will do that. The BOP has received 43,650 doses and administered 45,577 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.