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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Public health officials have begun vaccinating inmates in Sacramento County jails after reports of a COVID-19 outbreak at both of the county’s facilities.

As of this month there are more than 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sacramento County jails.

Those who are incarcerated are three times more likely to catch the virus than the general public according to a study by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.

“When you have an over-crowded jail population like you see in Sacramento and other jail systems when you have a pandemic, it’s going to tear through there,” said civil rights attorney Aaron Fischer.

Outbreaks in jails have been reported across the country, including in Sacramento County.

Since March of last year there have been more than 1,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county’s jails.

Fischer represents hundreds of incarcerated individuals who caught the virus and he’s been pushing the county to better protect them.

“It’s been terrible and terrifying for them. They’re scared for their health. They’ve been held in lockdown conditions for months now,” he explained.

Fischer sent local leaders a letter in late January raising concerns about the poor conditions in local jails and called for all inmates to be vaccinated.

And the county began administering the vaccines to inmates ahead of their scheduled Phase 1B position to “help control an outbreak”.

“Sacramento County Jail is doing the right thing by taking this important step. It’s good for the people who I represent inside the jail and it’s for the community,” Fischer told FOX40.

A county spokesperson told FOX40 they will first vaccinate higher-risk inmates, such as people with medical needs and disabilities, those 65 years and older and those living in highly concentrated areas like pods, as well as prioritizing workers who move about the jail and can easily spread the virus to others.

All of these are moves that Fischer says will benefit the entire county.

“The jail doesn’t exist in its own universe. A jail, even though it’s a locked facility is still very much a part of the Sacramento community, because staff come in and out, because incarcerated people come in and out, so it is an important place to try and protect outbreaks from occurring,” he explained.

The vaccines will be given voluntarily and anyone who chooses not to get one for religious or medical reasons may opt-out of the program.