Inmates have a right to swine flu vaccinations

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    After front-page articles announced that Texas would be vaccinating inmates in Texas prisons for the swine flu, a public outcry led to an apparent reversal of the decision.

    One woman commented to NBC 5 that Texas should use the inmates like “guinea pigs” to see if the vaccine has any ill effects. Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy of statements like this being made on the premise of moral superiority?

    The fact is that people make mistakes and not everyone in Texas’ jails and prisons deserves to die. Some of them are teenagers who went looking for role models and found the wrong ones; others were swept away by addiction or were stricken with the desperation of poverty that one really can’t comprehend unless they have been there.

    The confined quarters and close proximity associated with incarceration make it an especially dangerous situation if any contagious illness is introduced.

    All of these inmates are someone’s loved one, and they all aren’t evil at heart. They have mothers, children and siblings who love them and believe in their ability to atone and come home to start a new life. I dare say there are people in prison who aren’t guilty of anything as we see time and time again for inmates who are lucky enough to have their cases re-examined.

    Immunizations should be distributed to various demographics based on the priority of risk factors, not opinion of individual personality or character. Who are we to judge? No one is perfect, and we are all sinners to a degree.

    It’s far too easy to demonize “others” and fall into a false sense of security in our own superiority. We do it with people in other countries to justify war in our own minds, we do it with people from the other side of the tracks and we do it with people who have been convicted of crimes.

    The truth is there are no “others.” We are all cut from the same cloth and are all imperfect by nature. The mother in Afghanistan has more in common with the mother in Dallas than either of them knows. And that 17-year-old young man in a Texas prison cell has more in common with your 15-year-old little brother than you think.

    We as a society still have a responsibility to protect inmates from contagious disease. They were given a sentence, and they are serving it. That doesn’t give us the right to put their lives in jeopardy because we may not like them. If people want to hold their nose up in the air as though they are exceedingly moral, then they should act like it and have compassion for every human being.

    Katie Martinez is a junior news-editorial major from Fort Worth.