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David Steffen: Don't move prisoners to the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines
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David Steffen: Don't move prisoners to the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines

David Steffen: Don't move prisoners to the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines

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David Steffen

David Steffen

GREEN BAY — Just under a year ago, Demetrius Williams committed unspeakable acts of evil. Williams, who was upset with his pregnant girlfriend, nearly stabbed her to death and brutally murdered her 3-year-old little girl. When asked why he killed the 3-year-old, Williams stated “he knew that killing (the girl) would bring (his girlfriend) great pain or hurt her a lot.”

Williams will likely be locked up for the rest of his life — as he should be. But despite his evil acts, Gov. Tony Evers thinks 26-year-old Demetrius Williams should get moved to the front of line to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which is overseen by Gov. Evers, recently announced that incarcerated people would be part of the next group eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin. Prisoners will be placed in the same priority group as teachers and food workers, and ahead of everyone else.

Evers is prioritizing convicted murders, rapists and child molesters ahead of a 50-year-old single mom who is battling cancer and trying to raise her family. The governor is putting people such as Christopher Kaphaem, a former nurse convicted of abusing nine hospitalized babies in a newborn intensive care unit, ahead of a 60-year-old grandfather with diabetes.

Evers has his priorities mixed up. Convicted criminals shouldn’t receive priority treatment for the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of anyone — especially not ahead of hardworking Wisconsinites who are at high risk due to preexisting conditions.

For this reason, I am authoring legislation that would prevent the governor and DHS from placing prisoners in the front line of vaccine distribution. My bill puts our most vulnerable population ahead of convicted criminals.

I understand social distancing is often not possible in our prisons, which is why I support vaccinating correctional officers immediately. Vaccinating guards should help prevent spreading the disease into correctional facilities in the first place and, hopefully, limit the exposure to prisoners. While it’s unfortunate, many prisoners have already had and recovered from COVID-19 — giving them some protection from further infection even without a vaccine.

While vaccine distribution has improved in the last week or so, the Evers administration’s lack of a cohesive plan from the start had Wisconsin near the bottom of the list in terms of vaccine distribution by state for weeks. The governor should not compound the mistake of the botched rollout by using precious vaccine doses on individuals who are incarcerated for doing unspeakable acts of evil.

The Christopher Kaphaems and Demetrius Williams of the world should simply not be our priority for vaccinations. We can all think of people we know who are far more deserving of the vaccine. Maybe it’s your sister who volunteers at the homeless shelter. Maybe it’s your priest or pastor. Maybe it’s your brother who is a lung cancer survivor. Whoever you have on your list, let’s get them protected before we start vaccinating murderers, child abusers and rapists.

Steffen, R-Green Bay, represents the 4th Assembly District in northeastern Wisconsin: Rep.Steffen@legis.wisconsin.gov.

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