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Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders urge New York to vaccinate its prisoners

Letter signed by over 120 faith leaders calls on US state to include ‘the most invisible’ in priorities for mass vaccination drive

Andrew Silow-Carroll is the editor-in-chief of JTA

View of Manhattan Detention Complex known as The Tombs to be closed on White street. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
View of Manhattan Detention Complex known as The Tombs to be closed on White street. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

JTA — Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders in New York State have urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to include incarcerated people in the current phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The letter, signed by over 120 US clergymen and clergywomen, was co-sponsored by Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan and Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day, with the support of the Center for Community Alternatives and the New York Jewish Agenda.

New York is not among the 27 states that include inmates in their vaccine plans or the dozen or so that place them in the first phases of vaccine distribution, The New York Times reported. Nearly 50,000 people are incarcerated in the state’s prisons and jails, which have been hit hard by the virus.

“As the vaccine for COVID-19 is distributed among our highest risk neighbors, it is clear that although those who are incarcerated have a very high risk of infection, they are among the most invisible when it comes to setting our priorities,” said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, senior rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah and a board member at New York Jewish Agenda, a liberal group.

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