• The Lance

Republican Senators Push Forward on Anti Prisoner COVID Bill

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

By Elijah Rader On February 16, a group of Republican senators pushed forward Bill SB8 which aimed to dehumanize and ignore the health of Wisconsin residents who are currently incarcerated. The bill states “The department of health services may not, in implementing the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, allocate or distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to an incarcerated person before beginning the allocation phase in which the individual would otherwise receive the COVID-19 vaccination.” Currently, prisoners are set up to get the shot in group 1B, but will now be placed last in line in that group. This is an interesting call considering the fact that prisoners are five times as likely to get COVID-19 than those who aren’t incarcerated.This is due to the unsafe conditions in Madison prisons.

This has been met with its fair share of criticism by many prison rights and human rights advocates due to its blatant disregard for prisoner’s lives. “These prisoners, whether or not they made a decision that landed them in prison, they still have a right to their safety and health… Are we sentencing them to more than just time? Are we sentencing them to an illness?” Wisconsin Channel 12’s Caroline Reinwald said. This thought has been discussed frequently among the community, and it really makes you question the goals and motivations of those who pushed forward the bill. Wisconsin has dealt with blatant racism in the past, and we are reminded of that with the recent 11 year anniversary of the murder of Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old Madison citizen killed by Matt Kenny, an employee of the Madison Police Department still to this day. Do prisoners not deserve rights to a vaccine despite being affected at five times the rate? Does this legislation show racism due to people of color making up the majority of the prison population? Is it just that they don’t value the lives of human beings? Looking at the state of our current Madison prisons, that would not be surprising.

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