LIHU‘E — Inmates at the Kaua‘i Community Correctional Center can now get paid to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
The program began on Thursday and was rolled out across the state correctional system, offering one-time payments of $50 to inmates who get fully vaccinated.
The program is retroactive to March 3, meaning that some 2,570 people housed in Hawai‘i jails and prisons are already eligible to receive the payment and another 137 are in progress, according to DPS.
At KCCC, 78 inmates were eligible for the payment as of Thursday, according to DPS Public Information Officer Toni Schwartz.
One KCCC inmate’s vaccination was in progress.
“PSD is doing everything it can to educate inmates about the vaccine and encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” said Tommy Johnson, DPS deputy director for corrections.
“We’ve seen a substantial increase in inmate vaccinations that we believe is a result of our education efforts.
“It is our hope that inmates who are still on the fence about getting vaccinated will participate,” said Johnson.
Schwartz explained that only people still in custody are eligible.
Those who were fully vaccinated while in custody but who are no longer incarcerated cannot receive the payment.
The $50 payments will not be taxed, according to Schwartz, but any inmate who receives one and owes restitution will have 25% of the payment garnished to pay toward their restitution debt.
The program is also expected to be offered to inmates from Hawai‘i incarcerated at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona.
The payment program’s end date is Dec. 31, 2024.
Funding for the vaccine incentive program came from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the blockbuster COVID-19 relief legislation that President Joe Biden signed back in March.
A total of $615,000 in ARPA funding was granted to the DPS to use in the inmate-vaccination-incentive program.
An outbreak of COVID-19 at KCCC in August led officials to lock down inmate movement in and out of the facility.
In total, 91 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in inmates at the jail and seven among staff, all of whom have recovered.
Inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at a rate of 10.9% during the pandemic.
The facility has been COVID-19-free since late September.