Pressley: Prison Inmates Should Receive First Coronavirus Vaccines

December 20, 2020

Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D.) said Sunday that incarcerated men and women should be prioritized alongside health care workers in the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.

"I'm going to continue to fight for our most vulnerable communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, for our health care workers, for our essential workers, for incarcerated men and women to be prioritized in the distribution of the vaccine," Pressley told CNN.

Pressley's statement is in line with her state's vaccination plan but clashes with other leaders' approaches. Massachusetts is prioritizing prison inmates and homeless individuals over senior citizens and at-risk individuals in its vaccination plan. The state's inmates will receive vaccines after frontline workers and residents of nursing homes.

Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser (D.) has said her city's inmates and homeless will be prioritized in vaccinations to create an "equitable distribution" of the vaccine.

Some Democratic state leaders have pushed back on the prioritization. Colorado governor Jared Polis said there was "no way" incarcerated people would get the vaccine before the general populace.

"There's no way it's going to go to prisoners before it goes to people who haven't committed any crime," Polis said. "That's obvious."

In addition to calling for inmates to be prioritized, Pressley pressured Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker (R.) to release prison inmates because of COVID-19 outbreaks. She also promoted an opinion piece written by a prison abolitionist who argued that society has a moral obligation to vaccinate inmates as soon as possible.