We’re all living in uncertain and frightening times right now, but this is an even scarier time to be incarcerated. Jails and prisons are by nature ill-equipped to deal with health crises, with chronic understaffing, packed quarters, and the outlawing of key resources that help prevent contagion, like hand sanitizer. Advocates across the country have been lobbying, sometimes with success, to get low-risk inmates released from these viral hotspots, to protect as many lives as they can. But it will take more than that to stem the tide of COVID-19 in jails and prisons: incarcerated people must be prioritized among the early recipients of the vaccine.
One of Judaism’s guiding principles is teshuvah, repentance, and that no punishment should be disproportionate to the wrong committed. What that means during the COVID-19 pandemic is extremely clear: No one deserves to have their prison sentence turn into a death sentence.
Our representatives need to hear from us. Write your governor to ask them to add prison and jail populations to their vaccine priority lists. And if your governor is leading the way on that fight already, write them to say thank you and to let them know that this is an issue that matters to you.