Michigan's guidelines for prioritization of the COVID-19 vaccine includes staff in correctional facilities and homeless shelters in its early phases, but not inmates and people living in homeless shelters.
That's a concern for the ACLU of Michigan, who released a memo this week asking the state to reconsider these groups to include residents of homeless shelters and inmates in Michigan's prisons and jails.
Syeda Davidson is a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan.
"The spread of COVID-19 in these facilities is devastating. However, if it’s difficult for a person who works in a correctional facility to socially distance, it’s certainly going to be difficult for a person who lives in a correctional facility to socially distance," Davidson says.
She says transmission of COVID-19 is more rapid congregate settings, and makes residents more vulnerable. These residents also lack access to critical resources.
Davidson says, "We know that there’s not always access to medical care. Specifically in correctional facilities, we know that the people who live there don’t always have the autonomy to protect themselves agains the spread of COVID."
The ACLU is also concerned about racism as a public health crisis, something they say is intrinsically tied to residents in congregate facilities like jails, prisons, and homeless shelters.
"We know that Black communities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. And the impact of COVID-19 on those communities is exacerbated by their overrepresentation in Michigan’s prisons and jails," Davidson says.
She says 14% of Michigan's population is Black, but Black people make up 49% of Michigan's prison population.