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The prison where I am has been offering the two-shot version of the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone who wants it. First, inmates over 65 years and older, with high risk health, or with jobs involving a lot of contact became eligible for it. Last month, the rest of the population began to receive the shots, if they chose to. 

The problem is that there is no faith in the medical system here. We have witnessed medical neglect and malpractice every day. Lawsuit decisions favor the prison, and nothing ever changes. When the medical staff tries to convince us that the vaccine is for our own good, our mind screams “Red flag!”

Prisoners are not allowed second opinions or able to do any research themselves. We either have to trust people we perceive as harmful or avoid it. I only know of about 10 to 20 women prisoners who agreed to take the vaccine. Most of them are either advocates of all vaccines, hypochondriacs, or they have family pressuring them to take it. 

I only know of two staff members who have agreed to be vaccinated. Most of the officers have boasted about not taking the vaccine. In some cases, it feels like they are doing it on purpose in hopes of getting us sick. 

The environment here is an us against them mentality. Inmates try to get at the staff and the staff constantly finds new ways to get at us. COVID-19 is the ultimate weapon to terrorize prisoners who have no choice about whom they come in contact with. 

Personally, I am choosing not to take the vaccine for two reasons. First, I have lupus, and vaccines are sometimes adverse to our system and, second, I am overweight. 

The vaccine does not stop you from getting COVID-19. It only makes it non-lethal. If I get COVID-19, I pray to my God that it is lethal. I may not be suicidal but I am a LWOP (life without parole), and I pray for death daily.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Dorothy Maraglino

Dorothy Maraglino is a writer incarcerated in California. Writing is how she processes the world around her and devotes most of her time to short works that share the realities of prison.