That query has struck a chord in Nebraska’s neighbor to the south. Kansas politicians have blanched at the idea that inmates in their COVID-19-plagued jails would get the vaccine before the general population of citizens 65 and over.
In Nebraska, Gage said, “inmates housed in correctional facilities will be treated like the general public.” That means inmates receive the vaccine at generally the same time as those in the public — 75 and over, 65 and over, etc., Gage said.
Adam Sipple, legal director for ACLU of Nebraska, said the vaccine hierarchy should be decided by public health experts on public-health data. He noted that inmates are in a particular pandemic predicament.
“Those folks are in a congregant environment,” Sipple said. “It’s a very dangerous environment.
“If we’re going to vaccinate some of the participants in a very important system, you would think we would need to vaccinate all of the participants, including the defendant, the judge, the court reporter, the attorneys, the jurors.”
What to do with jurors is another conundrum. At trial, Kleine said, it would be difficult to inform jurors that all of the participants have been vaccinated except for them. So would court officials want to vaccinate an entire pool of jurors?
For now, defendants are stuck in a pandemic purgatory. So far, court officials say, Douglas County has yet to see a formal legal challenge based on speedy-trial grounds. A district judge in South Dakota granted one such challenge, ruling that the law requiring a defendant to be tried within six months is not suspended during a pandemic. “There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution,” the judge wrote in late December.