On Friday, State Rep. Omari Hardy, D – West Palm Beach called on Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to protect the health of the detainees in his jails.
Hardy called on Bradshaw to regularly test detainees in Palm Beach County’s jails for COVID-19 and to work with local health agencies, as well the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, to obtain COVID-19 vaccines for all eligible detainees.
“Every eligible Palm Beach County resident has some access to the vaccine except for residents incarcerated in the sheriff’s jails. They have no access to the vaccine while they are incarcerated. This concerns me not only because I believe that every person who is eligible for the vaccine should have access to it but also because the people incarcerated in the sheriff’s jails are at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19,” Hardy said on Friday.
“Jails are dangerous places in normal times, but in a pandemic, they can be especially dangerous. Detainees live in close quarters. Staff track germs in and out of the jail with each shift they work. When a person is arrested and detained in a jail, they are exposed to an environment that is ripe for disease transmission. But when they are released, the public is exposed to them,” Hardy added. “COVID-19 is running rampant in the sheriff’s jails. The Palm Beach Post reported that the test-positivity rate for COVID-19 in the main jail was as high as 34 percent last month. For the health of both the detainees and the general public, the sheriff must take action to quell the spread of COVID-19 in his jails. He needs to regularly test all detainees for COVID-19, and he needs to work with local, state, and federal partners to obtain and administer vaccines to all eligible detainees.
“The detainees in Sheriff Bradshaw’s jails are still people. Their lives matter. They deserve equal access to the vaccine. Sheriff Bradshaw has a professional and moral obligation to provide it to them,” Hardy concluded.