PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – On Monday, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office announced it is now vaccinating incarcerated individuals at Washtenaw County Jail against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Due to their close quarters, those within the jail are susceptible to outbreaks and have the potential to become “community spreaders”, officials said.
In a statement, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton highlighted steps WCSO and its partners have taken during the pandemic to reduce the risk of spreading the virus within the jail. He said that half of the jail’s population is being held over alleged violations and that many individuals cycle in and back out to their communities within two weeks.
“This means, if not managed effectively, the cycling of people in and out of jail and back into the community can present a real risk of increasing community spread,” said Clayton.
Those entering the jail can receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Vaccinations started on Friday, March 12.
WCSO also has an online tracking COVID-19 data within Washtenaw County Jail. It shows how many incarcerated individuals show no symptoms, those newly arrested and under precautionary observation, those in quarantine after showing COVID-19 symptoms, individuals in medical isolation and the number of individuals released from WCSO custody who have tested positive.
We now provide the vaccine to those in our jail. Jails across the country require people to live in close quarters making them susceptible to massive outbreaks and potentially becoming community spreaders of the virus. #Covid_19 #StopTheSpread #Jails— Washtenaw Co Sheriff (@WSheriff) March 15, 2021
Read the full statement from Sheriff Clayton below:
“The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office along with our partners in County Administration and Public Health understand and are extremely sensitive to the concern, frustration, and apprehension associated with access to and participation in the Covid-19 vaccination process. For over a year we have worked to follow the science and advice of the experts in an attempt to put forth proactive and thoughtful strategies, designed to safely serve our community and help reduce the possibility of community spread.
These efforts include employing operational protocols intended to reduce the risk of spread of the virus in our facility. The importance of these efforts cannot be understated. Jails are self-contained facilities, that have a physical architecture that make it difficult to sustain effective physical distancing. We also receive individuals that often have physical health challenges. Altogether, jails become a potential hot spot for spreading the virus.
Additionally, over half of the population have “pre-trial” status, which means they are held in jail based on an “alleged” violation of the law. They have not been convicted of any offense, and therefore are innocent until proven guilty. Pre-trial or convicted of an offense, everyone in our facility should experience the same protections. Finally, another reality is the fact that the average length of stay in the facility is less than two weeks, and for many it is less than 48 hours. This means, if not managed effectively, the cycling of people in and out of jail and back into the community can present a real risk of increasing community spread.
For all these reasons and more, I have advocated at both the local and state level for making vaccination of those incarcerated a priority. Not that they should be moved to the head of the line, just that this population should not be ignored, and they deserve a place in line. Now that multiple vaccines have been approved and more are being made available to the general public every day, we have in partnership with Public Health and our contracted medical care provider, Wellpath, initiated a process by which all individuals entering the jail have the option of receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.”