Unvaccinated inmates segregated from vaccinated state prison population

Written by on August 10, 2021

Unvaccinated inmates segregated from vaccinated state prison population

By Kiley Koscinski / WESA 

August 10, 2021

In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 photo, barbed wire lines the top of a wall at the deactivated House of Correction in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, which has used previous John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grants to reduce it’s jail population by about 36 percent, will receive $4 million to continue its work. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pennsylvania state prisons are housing inmates based on their vaccination status starting this week.

Officials say it’s a measure to protect the unvaccinated from exposure to the virus and its variants as they spread across the state.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said prison staff will also increase COVID-19 screenings for the unvaccinated.

“You’re going to see a nurse every day who’s going to check on you, take your temperature, make sure you’re not experiencing any symptoms,” he said.

Visitation has been suspended for unvaccinated prisoners at the state’s 24 correctional institutions. Those who are vaccinated may continue scheduling visits. 

The corrections department reports there are 63 inmates with COVID-19 at their facilities. Nearly half of those cases are at SCI Phoenix — formerly Graterford State Prison — in Montgomery County.

According to the Department of Corrections, the new housing assignments are designed to protect the one in five inmates who are unvaccinated.

Vaccines are not mandatory for the incarcerated or for prison staff.

Corrections officers are not being grouped by vaccination status. A department spokesperson said such a measure is not feasible. 

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