Oakhill State Prison

The Oakhill Correctional Center in Oregon County is one 19 state prisons for adults in Wisconsin. 

(The Center Square) – The plan to have inmates in Wisconsin wait their turn for a coronavirus vaccination is moving forward at the State Capitol. But it’s not likely to go too much further.

The Wisconsin Senate on Tuesday approved a package that would no longer prioritize inmates in state prison or prisoners in county jails for the vaccine.

“This ensures that prisoners don’t jump the queue,” Sen. Van Wangaarrd, R-Racine, said during the debate. “They will be treated the same as if they were outside.”

Wangaarrd said the idea is not to treat inmates and prisoners differently, but instead to treat them the same as everyone else who is waiting for a shot.

Democrats in Madison said the proposal would punish people in jail and prison for simply being in jail and prison, and is little more than a political proposal.

“We all know what this vote is about, it’s to satisfy your base,” Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire, told Republicans on Tuesday.

“My hunch is [this plan] is just designed to embarrass the governor,” Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee added.

Inmates and prisoners are on the list of people who will be eligible under Wisconsin’s Phase 1b vaccination group. That group also includes anyone over 65, people with health conditions, teachers, grocery store workers, first responders, and others. In all, more than a million people are eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1b.

While Republicans at the Capitol support the idea of limiting vaccines for inmates and prisoners, Gov. Evers and Democrats do not.

The Assembly will take-up the proposal next. If it passes the Assembly, Gov. Evers would have to sign the proposal into law. 

Wisconsin’s coronavirus vaccination numbers are improving. After a slow start, the state’s Department of Health Services is now reporting that nearly 1 million doses have been administered. DHS reported on Tuesday that more than 12% of the state’s population, 726,314 people, have gotten one dose of the vaccine. DHS says 249,933 others have received both doses.