Seeking a vaccine mandate for all state prison guards and staff, a federal court-appointed receiver overseeing the medical care of California’s prisons argued Friday that there have been 11 coronavirus-related deaths since August among corrections employees who were not fully vaccinated and outbreaks at 21 prisons.
“We do really have a problem of continuing major outbreaks,” J. Clark Kelso, the court-appointed receiver, informed U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar during a virtual hearing in Oakland. Explaining that the coronavirus has repeatedly spread from staff to the incarcerated, he noted that recently six other states and the federal prison system have mandated vaccines for all prison employees.
Kelso has asked the judge to impose the mandate because he says voluntary vaccination programs of staff have failed. At the High Desert State Prison in Susanville, for example, only 29% of the employees are fully vaccinated.
But Gregg Adam, an attorney for the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., argued that the state was not indifferent to the prisoners because it has offered the vaccine to 99% of inmates and that nearly a quarter of those have refused inoculation. Adam warned that the implementation of a vaccine mandate among the guards and staff could lead to a significant number of employees being unavailable for work and place extraordinary pressure on the prisons.
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