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  • Doug Tjapkes

COVID in prison? Time to get serious!

Are state prisons an outbreak hazard? That was the front-page headline in MLive newspapers this week. The answer is obvious, and it looks to me that there’s enough blame to go around...even among the prisoners. Here’s the deal, and thanks to MLive for bringing it to our attention. We all know that, because of confinement, there’s a high COVID risk in the prison environment. BUT, the Michigan Department of Corrections has shown no interest in a vaccination mandate for prison employees. I suspect partly because they don’t want to tangle with their union. That’s really no surprise, because the State of Michigan hasn’t mandated coronavirus vaccines for the rest of state employees, either. All of this makes me so angry! True, COVID is the enemy, and it’s sending people to the hospital and/or to the mortuary every day. But the REAL KILLER is and has been misinformation and disinformation, a shameful epidemic initiated by some of our nations’ leaders who obviously place politics ahead of morality. Allow me to rant for just a second. I’m old enough to remember the polio scare, and how grateful we were in 1953 when we learned that Dr. Salk had invented a vaccine. As I recall, no parents questioned what was in that vaccine, quarreled about whether the tests had been rushed, or screamed that vaccination encouragement was unconstitutional. Instead, we thanked God that science found a means of protection. OK, now back to Michigan prisons. For a point of information, Michigan has almost 37,000 people in nursing homes, and some 32,500 people in prisons. Last month, the President announced that nursing home staff would have to be vaccinated for these homes to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. So much for that vulnerable group. What about prisoners? Our Governor could order a mandate for prison staff, I suppose, but there’s no question that she’s a bit skittish about things like this. Her political opponents in both chambers seem more intent on weakening her powers than working on positive programs. MSU’s civil rights activist Dan Manville says that, if prison employees aren’t going to be mandated to get the shots, the prisoners for sure ought to get them. But, according to the MLive article, only about 65% of Michigan inmates are fully vaccinated. I’m sure that is also partly due to that “misinformation and disinformation epidemic.” It’s time for all to adopt the Biblical principle of consideration for others over self. It’s time for staff and inmates to “man up,” and get the damn shots! Now!

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