Louisiana judge says convicted sex attacker can skip community service if given COVID vaccine

A Louisiana judge allows convicted criminals to skip community service if they get their COVID vaccine — including one defendant originally charged with rape.

Judge Fred Crifasi allows individuals on probation to skip community service if they receive the coronavirus vaccine, according to court records obtained by WBRZ, a local affiliate of ABC

Judge Fred Crifasi allows offenders sentenced to between four and 33 hours of community service by his 19th court to opt out if they get the shot, according to court records obtained by September, a local affiliate of ABC.

Papers seen by the TV station contained details of an unnamed suspect originally charged with second-degree rape.

Those charges were later downgraded to felony sexual battery charges, with paperwork explaining how the criminal was given the option of a vaccine in lieu of community service during a probation assessment.

It read: ‘Defendant owes 33 hours of CSW (Community Service), court will allow proof of vaccine in lieu of remaining CSW hours.’

Another piece of documentation showed that a second criminal was offered the vaccine option, although further details of their conviction were not shared. It’s unclear how many people took advantage of Crifasi’s vaccine offerings.

Judge Crifasi’s decision comes as the state is seeing one of the highest rises in COVID-19 cases and still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore supported Judge Crifasi’s offer and said it is not uncommon for judges to offer alternatives to community service, such as getting vaccinated.

‘Judges always do things like this in an innovative way. For example, you may have seen or heard in the past that the judge would allow your blood donation in lieu of community service or payment of the fine. If a judge is going to make this offer, I think it’s a reasonable offer.’

At least two perpetrators have been offered the offer, including one accused of rape

At least two perpetrators have been offered the offer, including one accused of rape

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore supported Judge Crifasi's offer and said it is not uncommon for judges to offer alternatives to community service, such as getting vaccinated.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore supported Judge Crifasi’s offer and said it is not uncommon for judges to offer alternatives to community service, such as getting vaccinated.

Some in East Baton Rouge don’t want to give Judge Crifasi’s offer a chance.

Jarrett Ambeau, a local attorney, said: ‘I don’t think the government is necessarily the right agency to be involved in injecting anything into my body. Judge Crifasi himself is, individually, incredibly honest. The point is when a government agency steps in to ask you to do something like, “Will I suffer if I don’t?” And that’s the question.’

District attorney Moore said violators who don’t want the vaccine can simply refuse it, adding: “These judges are perfectly reasonable in these circumstances, but I can understand why someone feels that way. And if that’s the case, don’t get vaccinated.’

Inmates in state prisons also get an incentive to get vaccinated, the Department of Corrections told WBRZ. Inmates who get the injection are given $5 in “canteen credit.” About 68 percent of inmates had been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, which is double the state’s total vaccination rate of 36.6 percent.

In 2015, Judge Marvin Wiggins in an Alabama town was both convicted and commended for allowing offenders to donate a pint of blood in lieu of community service. According to a New York Times In an article written at the time, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an ethics complaint against Judge Wiggins after his petition, saying he had committed “a violation of bodily integrity.”

The option to give blood rather than pay community service or a fine was more common in the mid-20th century, especially during wartime. After the Pearl Harbor attack, judges in Honolulu ordered people convicted of traffic violations to give blood or offer blood donations as an alternative to a fine, as described in “Flesh and Blood,” a history of blood transfusions and organ transplants by Susan Lederer, a professor of medical history now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

However, the tradition ended in the 1970s when fears of the spread of hepatitis led to an almost entirely voluntary blood donation system.

Inmates in state prisons also get an incentive to get vaccinated, the Department of Corrections told WBRZ.  Inmates who get the injection get $5 in 'canteen credit'

Inmates in state prisons also get an incentive to get vaccinated, the Department of Corrections told WBRZ. Inmates who get the injection get $5 in ‘canteen credit’

The Louisiana Department of Health map above shows the most vulnerable parishes in Louisiana

The Louisiana Department of Health map above shows the most vulnerable parishes in Louisiana

The decision comes as the state sees the second highest single-day rise in Covid cases since Jan. 6, with a report of 6,797 on Tuesday, according to the CDC.

The decision comes as the state sees the second highest single-day rise in Covid cases since Jan. 6, with a report of 6,797 on Tuesday, according to the CDC.

Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, as can be seen from the CDC map above.  The state has fully vaccinated 36.6 percent of the population

Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, as can be seen from the CDC map above. The state has fully vaccinated 36.6 percent of the population

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the state saw 6,797 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday — the second highest single-day increase since Jan. 6, when 6,882 cases were reported. Also on Tuesday, 1,390 people were hospitalized with Covid-29 statewide, an increase of 169 from the previous day and the largest single-day increase since March 2020.

Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement he would recommend that everyone, even those who have been fully vaccinated, start wearing masks indoors again.

He said: ‘It’s getting scarier to see this current surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. We reported nearly 6,800 cases today, in addition to the nearly 8,000 reported this weekend.

“And today, nearly 1,400 Covid patients have been admitted across the country — about 90 percent of whom are unvaccinated. This is the largest daily increase since March last year. As I said recently, this wave is ours, and that means it’s up to each of us to do our part to put an end to it. It is within our power. Vaccination is the best way to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic.’

According to statistics from Our World in Data, Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the country with 34.1 percent of their population vaccinated and Louisiana is bottom of the list with 36.6 percent of their population. Vermont is the state with the highest vaccination rate, with 67.4 percent of their population completing the injections.

Last week, however, the state saw a spike in the number of residents receiving the injection with more than 58,000 receiving their first doses, a 153 percent increase from the previous week, according to CDC data.

Meanwhile, the Department of Corrections announced on Tuesday that it is suspending inmate visits and volunteering with immediate effect through August 16 due to the spike in cases, KATC, a local affiliate of ABC.

Instead of face-to-face visits, inmates are offered two free phone calls per week and video calling is still available for free.

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