Court blocks Covid-19 vaccine mandate for California prisons

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A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily blocked an order that all California prison workers must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or receive religious or medical exemptions.

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A panel at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals requested a stay on a September lower court order pending an appeal. It also expedited the hearing process by setting a December 13 deadline for opening the briefs.

The vaccination mandate was supposed to be in effect by January 12, but the appellate court halted enforcement until sometime in March, when an appeal hearing would be scheduled.


The judge issuing the vaccination mandate followed the recommendation of a court-appointed receiver who was chosen to manage the state prison health care system after a federal judge in 2005 found that California failed to provide adequate medical care to inmates. .

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In addition to requiring COVID-19 shots for prison personnel, US District Judge John Tiger required vaccinations or exemptions for inmates who wish to travel in person or who work outside prisons, including inmate firefighters.

The stay puts “both prison staff and the incarcerated population at greater risk of infection,” said Don Spector, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office, who is in the long-running trial over medical conditions in state prisons. Represents prisoners.

The mandate was opposed by the state’s prison agency and Governor Gavin Newsom, even though his administration had previously ordered vaccinations or tests for all state employees, including correctional workers.

The politically powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association had argued that the mandate could lead to staff shortages if employees refused to comply.

Messages to the governor’s office and corrections officials seeking comment on Friday’s stay were not immediately returned.

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The original vaccination order was designed to stem another COVID-19 outbreak, which killed 28 inmates and a corrections officer at San Quentin State Prison last year.

Tiger argued, “Once the virus enters a facility, it is very difficult to control, and the major route that enters the prison is through infected staff.”

According to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), more than 50,000 state inmates—more than half of California’s state inmate population—have a confirmed case of COVID-19, and at least 242 have died of the disease. Is.

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