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Lawyer pushes for vaccinations in prisons as COVID circumstances, deaths climb

Juan Chavez seeks federal intervention amid class action lawsuit against prisoners

by: Jennifer Dowling

Posted: Jan 23, 2021 / 4:43 PM PSTUpdated: Jan 23, 2021 / 6:09 PM PST

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Seven inmates jailed by the Oregon Department of Justice who filed a class action lawsuit in April for lacking state protection from the novel coronavirus are now pressing for vaccinations.

Prisoners’ attorney Juan Chavez told KOIN 6 News that failure to protect inmates from COVID-19 is essentially a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

Oregon prisoners are suing Governor Brown, DOC, over concerns about the virus

He said his clients are demanding that the federal government step in and force the state to vaccinate all prisoners against the virus. Chavez helped prisoners issue a restraining order and injunction Thursday to do so.

“Breathing droplets collect in interiors like prisons. And people would get very sick if we didn’t make changes. This is sad evidence of what we have known all along. “

Lawyer Juan Chavez

He said the decision to vaccinate other members of the public who are healthier – in front of prisoners – is a violation. And the number of prisoner deaths was high.

“What we knew in April would become shockingly clear very soon if we didn’t change course. Basically we knew that people couldn’t stay away from each other, ”said Chavez. “Breathing droplets collect in interiors like prisons. And people would get very sick if we didn’t make changes. This is sad evidence of what we have known all along. “

3 more people die in Oregon prisons infected with COVID-19

The injunction motion reads: Between the development of the vaccines and the date the Oregon Department of Corrections suffered its first positive case, 3,084 people became infected with the virus while in ODOC custody. Thirty-three died. Almost a third of those deaths occurred just last month.

Chavez said nearly 800 employees at ODOC have also gotten sick and the restraining order also affects their safety.

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