FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2021
Contact: FDC Communications
Secretary’s Message to Inmates and Offenders : FIND THE NORMAL (GET THE SHOT!)
This has been such a challenging period for you, your families, and our staff and volunteers. But in record time, amazing scientists have developed vaccines to protect us and end this horrible pandemic. Now the focused effort of the entire Nation is on producing millions of vials of vaccine to distribute to every corner of our Nation and the World, to put needles in arms. We started vaccinating our medical staff in February and at-risk correctional staff in March. The National goal is to provide vaccinations to every adult who wishes to get the vaccine by the end of May. Offenders can already get vaccinated following procedures and priorities set in their communities. For the incarcerated, we will start your vaccinations this month. When all staff and inmates have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, it does beg the question; now what?
The most common question I get from staff and the incarcerated alike is, “When can I take off the darn mask.” I know, we hate the mask, and you probably didn’t use the word “darn.” Let me answer that first, then we can talk broader issues. My position, unless changed by medical authorities and no surprises from COVID-19 variants, is that masks will become optional for staff and inmate, once all staff and inmates have been offered the vaccine and it is two weeks after the last administered dosage. We will build in voluntary vaccinations into our intake process and continue to adhere to good sanitation and standard pandemic control procedures. Once we have offered you the protection given by the vaccine, you should not expect others to take the special precaution of wearing a mask to protect you, if you will not protect yourself. Decisions have consequences.
Does that sound too harsh? I apologize. But we have all learned the hard way in life that decisions and actions have consequences. It is time for each of us to assess our personal risk to a truly terrible virus that has taken lives. I respect that there are some that have religious or philosophical reservations to taking vaccines. That is a very small minority. Most that do not take vaccines, do so for a variety of reasons; lack of confidence in the vaccine, pain aversion (that’s me!), fear of side effects, hope that a prior infection created enough antibodies to protect you (that’s me, again), belief that you are impervious to the virus, procrastination, plain apathy or laziness. You can probably think of a few more ways to rationalize ignoring this step to protect yourself. But a decision to not decide, is a decision to not take the vaccine. I have already had COVID, but I still plan on taking the vaccine, once all of you have had the opportunity to do so (I do think I still have some level of protective antibodies).
Here’s the bottom line. Science shows that the vaccines are effective and safe. Without the vaccine, you are at risk for contracting COVID-19, perhaps for a second time. This is an extremely contagious virus. If you get COVID-19, depending on your health, age, and other undetermined factors, you may be asymptomatic, get minor symptoms, get moderate symptoms (which I can personally verify are awful), or major symptoms that can lead to hospitalization, being placed on a vent, and potentially death. Is this really something you want to gamble on? In our state, you have the right to gamble, the right to refuse the vaccine. But please choose wisely. At a minimum, if you contract the virus you will be placed in medical isolation and those in close contact with you will be placed in medical quarantine. Decisions have consequences.
So, what about everything else? Is it time to get back to normal? Personally, I want us to get back to something better than what was our circumstances before the pandemic. We are already actively reaching back out to our volunteers, seeking out new volunteers, and approaching the business community to expand our programs. We are reading and researching your ideas for programming. We want to provide you a variety of positive choices, choices better than continuing a life of violence or idleness. Why? Because good decisions have consequences, much better consequences than the alternative.
As Florida's largest state agency, and the third largest state prison system in the country, FDC employs 24,000 members, incarcerates 80,000 inmates and supervises nearly 145,000 offenders in the community.