JACKSON, Miss. (MISSISSIPPI TODAY) – Leaders of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), the agency that oversees the state’s prison system, publicly say COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory inside prisons and boast the state’s low percentage of prisoners refusing to become inoculated.
But inside the state’s largest prison, people who are hesitant to take vaccines face serious consequences like no visitation rights, no access to work programs and no consideration for movement to different facilities, according to documents obtained by Mississippi Today.
Those consequences, paired with little information about the vaccines provided to prisoners by MDOC, are leaving many people in prison feeling confused and coerced into taking vaccines they know little about or don’t trust.
The stakes are especially raised for prisoners since visitation has been postponed since the pandemic began in March 2020.
MDOC began administering COVID-19 vaccines to people in prison on March 19, making Mississippi among the first states to conduct mass vaccinations inside prisons. As of Tuesday, prison officials said they had administered 6,030 first-dose shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines across five prisons: the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, South Mississippi Correctional Institution near Leakesville and at two of the state’s private prisons, East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian and Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs.