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Judge: Calif. prison guards must be vaxxed by Jan. 2022

California’s prison guards and other correctional workers face a court-mandated deadline to get vaccinated to remain employed, an Oakland-based Federal ruled last week.

Despite vigorous, if surprising, resistance from the Newsom administration, the ruling brings the state’s correctional officers in conformity with the rest of California’s state agencies in requiring

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar issued an order mandating employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and prisoners seeking to work outside of prisons or be able to have in-person visitation be vaccinated by Jan. 12, 2022.

The order comes one month after Tigar ruled that the department needed to establish such a vaccine mandate for workers and prisoners.

The Newsom administration, a champion of vaccine mandates in virtually any other context, has steadfastly avoided crafting such mandates for prison guards.

Critics point to prison guards’ powerful union – the California Correctional Peace Officers Association – and its $1.75 million contribution to Newsom’s recall defense campaign this fall. It was the sixth-largest such contribution to his effort.

In place of a vaccine mandate, Newsom administration officials tried nearly every other alternative to instituting a mandate for vaccination with prison guards, from cash payments to behavioral science strategies to one-on-one counseling to encourage vaccination, CalMatters reported.

In his September ruling, Tigar said the attempt was woefully inadequate.

“5,135 staff members attended a counseling appointment, the ruling reads. Of that amount, roughly 5 percent agreed to be vaccinated with 4,385 workers signing “a formal declination, refusing to become vaccinated.”

Tigar found that a mandatory vaccination program “would lower the risk of preventable death and serious medical consequences among incarcerated persons. And no one has identified any remedy that will produce anything close to the same benefit.”

The Newsom administration is seeking to appeal Tigar’s September ruling and October order.

Read the order

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.