NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Pressure is mounting for New York state to prioritize the vaccination of inmates.
Advocates argue without inoculations; the already vulnerable population inside will see even more infections.READ MORE: New York State Legislature Votes To Curb Gov. Cuomo's Emergency Powers
As CBS2’s Christina Fan reports, outside Edgecombe Correctional Facility in Washington Heights, activists demanded vaccinations for the inmates inside – worried if left unchecked, COVID-19 will turn prison sentences into death sentences for those serving time.
“People who are incarcerated are still New Yorkers. They are still people. They deserve the vaccine,” said Assemblywoman Carmen de la Rosa.
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Facing intense pressure and a lawsuit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week the state will immediately begin vaccinating about 1,000 inmates 65 and older. But activists say all inmates should be prioritized, questioning why prisons aren’t included in early vaccination phases like other facilities with congregate settings.
“This is yet another example of when politics takes precedence over people,” said Anissah Sabur of HALT Solitary Confinement.READ MORE: Brooklyn Mom Wants NYC Apartments Inspected Annually After Parts Of Ceiling Crash Down On 12-Year-Old Son
More than 5,000 prisoners have tested positive in New York. That’s about one in every eight incarcerated people. Thirty one inmates have died, including two women Natasha White says she served time with.
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“I once sat in a yard with these ladies. I’ve had conversations with these ladies. I’ve been in the same situation as these ladies. It could have been me,” White said.
“Please intervene and make sure that human beings in prison are being treated with humanity,” said activist Andrew Ward.
Advocates say staying socially distanced is nearly impossible inside prisons.
Besides vaccine prioritization, advocates are also demanding more testing, PPE, and the early release of the most at-risk imprisoned population.MORE NEWS: Immersive Public Art Installation Now On Display At Domino Park
CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report.