PORTLAND, Ore.--A federal judge in Portland late Tuesday ordered that prisoners be included in Phase 1A of the state's vaccine distribution plan, placing them ahead of senior citizens and teachers.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman ruled in favor of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, which brought a class action lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown and the Department of Corrections. The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 22. This order will now place prisoners in the department of corrections in the same group as hospice workers, long term care workers, and other essential workers.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center cited the 8th Amendment for their main argument. The 8th Amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment for prisoners in the United States. Lawyers representing the non-profit said inmates are at a higher risk of contracting and dying from the virus. The According to the Department of Corrections, 3,200 inmates have contracted COVID-19 and there have been 38 deaths. The judge agreed that keeping prisoners lower on the vaccination list does violate the 8th Amendment.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center released this statement:
"This decision by the court will serve to protect thousands of Oregonians in prison and will come as a great relief to them and their loved ones... We look forward to hearing very shortly from the state about how it plans to roll out vaccination throughout all of ODOC's facilities."
This order takes effect immediately but could be appealed.