Efforts now being taken to vaccinate in prisons
Morgan McKay reports at Spectrum News that state health officials are finally working hard to get a congregate population vaccinated for COVID-19: prisoners. So far, New York's incarcerated are only about 45 percent vaccinated, below the rate of all local counties. COVID-19 spreads fastest in congregate facilities such as nursing homes and jails, and several COVID-19 community outbreaks began from prison cases that correctional officers then spread outside the facilities. But now some corrections officers are upset that inmates are being offered incentives to get vaccinated. “We had a large number of members that came down with the disease, we had many quarantines, we had some staffing issues going forward and, you know, we held it down,” Powers said, noting correction officers in Colorado are being paid $500 to get vaccinated. “We’re kind of curious as to why we're left out of the loop.” Prisoners are not receiving $500, and most won't get anything. Instead, they are entered into a lottery with five fully-vaccinated incarcerated individuals in each of the state’s 50 prisons receiving care packages with the “most popular food items sold at your assigned facility’s commissary, not to exceed a $75 value.” And six facilities with the highest percentage of vaccinated individuals will receive a full-scale facility barbeque. And only vaccinated prisoners will be allowed conjugal visits. The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released a statement explaining the program: “The department is doing everything possible to encourage incarcerated individuals to receive their vaccinations. The maximum number of vaccinated incarcerated individuals ensures a safer work environment for staff, the incarcerated population and visitors to facilities. This type of incentive program has proven to be effective not only in the general public, but in correctional systems across the country. For the correction officer’s union to politicize this effort and dismiss all the challenges of the past year and a half is beyond the pale.” Read more about this story at Spectrum News.