The North Star is a network of Black and Latinx journalists and creators that provide daily news stories and podcasts with action steps that help you get involved. We speak truth to power without fear because our stories, our voices and our lives matter. Please consider becoming a member and enjoy exclusive benefits of our ad-free platform for as little as $5 a month.
The Louisiana Department of Corrections is working to combat the spread of the coronavirus within its prison populations and maintain the health of the incarcerated during flu season. Their method of ensuring a virus-free community? The department is offering a $5 prison-canteen credit to any incarcerated person housed in state facilities.
According to the Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary, Jimmy LeBlanc, the incentive is a critical measure in response to the impact of COVID-19.
“[G]iven the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical we go above and beyond to urge all inmates, who are otherwise able, to take the influenza vaccination during this flu season,” Leblanc wrote in a letter obtained by the Louisiana Illuminator. The message circulated to wardens state-wide specifically referenced members of the prison population that are aged 65 and over, pregnant, or living with chronic illnesses.
Flu vaccinations are offered annually and the Department of Corrections is hoping that the $5 credit will generate more voluntary participation. If someone is incarcerated in a local, sheriff-run jail, they will not be eligible for the credit.
The credit incentive by the Department of Corrections seems well-intentioned on the surface, but when considering the demographics of those incarcerated in Louisiana, there is room to question the “generosity” of this offering as a preliminary means of experimentation for the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccinations.
Black people make up roughly 33% of Louisiana’s population but account for 67.5% of its state prison population. The incarcerated in Louisiana earn between 4 to 70 cents per hour, so a $5 credit can be a very alluring offer to be vaccinated for something as common as the flu. But what happens if a similar offer is extended to be an early test subject for unproven coronavirus vaccinations?
A state comprised of overpopulated prisons within a country that has a documented history of medically experimenting with Black bodies offers the prime candidates for a COVID-19 control group.
If there is a serious adverse effect or related deaths that stem from experimenting on humans in Louisiana’s prison industrial complex, who in power will care enough to halt experimentation? Or would the higher-ups consider it a sacrificial debt that the incarcerated pays for the greater good of the free society?
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be.