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Steffen: Evers wrongly puts prisoners in front of COVID vaccine line

By Rep. David Steffen (R-Howard)

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. However, despite his evil acts, Gov. Tony Evers thinks 26-year-old Williams should get moved to the front of line to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which is overseen by the governor, recently announced that incarcerated persons 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, food workers, and ahead of everyone else.

Governor 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.

Governor Evers is putting people like 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.

Governor 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 high risk due to preexisting conditions.

For this reason, I am authoring legislation that would prevent Governor Evers and his Department of Health Services from placing prisoners at 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. Governor Evers 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 Williamses 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. Whomever you have on your list, let’s get them protected before we start vaccinating murderers, child abusers, and rapists.

David Steffen is the State Representative from the 4th Assembly District

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