BUTTE — Butte Health officials are trying to vaccinate everyone in the county – even those behind bars.
“If we can get most of our inmates vaccinated it will be a huge deal for us. Anytime you have a congregate living situation and we have a disease that’s as infectious as Covid, it’s a huge concern,” said Butte Sheriff Ed Lester.
The jail has just under 100 inmates incarcerated and about half the inmates have agreed to get vaccinated. The sheriff said they want to encourage more to get vaccinated.
“If they look at the big picture, what’s better for them, what’s better for the facility, what’s better for the community and what’s better for the correctional system, it’s an easy answer, but some people aren’t willing to take the vaccine and we’re certainly not going to force anybody to do that,” said Lester.
The Butte jail reports there was a case of a female inmate becoming infected with COVID-19 last winter.
“We were able to isolate her and three other people who had been exposed to her and that’s all we had was four in the facility, so we’ve been pretty successful in getting it out of there so far,” the sheriff said.
And with the additional positive cases of COVID-19 at the Montana State Prison, it’s likely that long-term prisoners here at the Butte jail are going to stay even longer.
“We’ve had some over a year and that’s because the system itself is overloaded, a lot of the movement about the department of corrections was restricted during COVID. We’re back to that now, there is an outbreak at Montana State Prison, so that’s going to slow things down again and so we may be holding people obviously a lot longer than we normally would,” said Lester.
No date has been set for the vaccinations, but the jail hopes to use the Johnson and Johnson vaccine because it is one-time vaccination.