COVID-19 Vaccinations Begin at South Woods State Prison

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

BRIDGETON, N.J. — A “limited” number of COVID-19 vaccinations began to be administered at the South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton last week, according to a report by

South Woods State Prison is New Jersey’s largest prison, and approximately 100 staff members received doses of the vaccine last Tuesday. However, Republican State Committee chairman Michael Lavery criticized the state for providing prisons with vaccine doses.

In a statement, Lavery said that it’s “unconscionable that Governor Murphy’s administration is vaccinating the convicted criminals in our prisons before the heroes in our state’s veteran homes.” Residents and staff members based in veteran homes received their first COVID-19 vaccine doses last Monday — a day before vaccinations began at the South Woods State Prison.

South Woods State Prison has had some issues with COVID-19 outbreaks, including a total of 273 inmates and employees contracting the virus as of last week. However, it isn’t the only prison in the area that’s had issues related to COVID-19.

Jack Surrency, who serves on the Cumberland County board of county commissioners, slammed Cumberland County Jail warden Richard Smith for his alleged mismanagement of the pandemic. Surrency called for Smith’s resignation due to his lack of action in response to the coronavirus.

It’s taken Warden Smith six months to mandate jail-wide testing and seven-and-a-half [months] to order proper PPE,” Surrency said. “The result of his failed leadership is well documented in the headlines of our local papers: over 70 inmates and staff infected with COVID.”

Throughout the United States, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been quite confusing and convoluted, and New Jersey is certainly no exception. The state’s official website says that phase 1A of the plan to distribute vaccines includes “paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials as well as residents and staff of long-term congregate settings.”

According to, a spokesman for the state clarified that prison staffers can be included in phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan.

Governor Phil Murphy announced at his Monday coronavirus task force briefing that the state has now administered the first dose of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines to more than 100,000 people. Staffers at the University Hospital in Newark became the first New Jerseyans to receive the second dose and, therefore, be fully vaccinated on Monday morning.