By KIM JARRETT
THE CENTER SQUARE ASSOCIATE EDITOR
(The Center Square) — Officials with Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety are offering inmates $25 if they get their COVID-19 booster shots.
The incentive is in addition to the $50 inmates can receive if they are fully vaccinated, according to a news release from the DPS. Inmates who were in custody from March 3, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2024, are eligible for the incentives, according to the news release.
The money is deposited into their inmate spending account. The incentives are not available to state employees.
The funding for the incentive program is from the American Rescue Plan Act. The DPS has spent $146,400 of the $615,000 requested for the program, according to the news release.
“The continuing goal of this initiative is to get as many inmates as possible vaccinated,” said Tommy Johnson, deputy director for corrections. “This will help ensure their health and safety, as well as that of our dedicated staff.”
The initial incentive program began Oct. 14. The number of inmates fully vaccinated increased to 3,916 from 2,530 during the first two months of the program, according to a Dec. 15 news release from the DPS.
The DPS has been questioned about COVID-19 protocol in its correctional facilities. A group of inmates filed a lawsuit against the DPS in April, claiming state corrections officials were not doing enough to stave off COVID-19 infections in the prisons.
The lawsuit was settled in September. Part of the settlement agreement required the DPS to establish a five-person Agreement Monitoring Panel to guide the DPS in its COVID-19 response.
Current statistics show 3,030 inmates detained in the state’s correctional facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, and nine have died during the pandemic.
The booster incentive comes as COVID-19 cases are increasing because of the more contagious omicron variant.
The largest outbreak is at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, where 42 out of 159 inmates tested were positive, according to numbers included in the news release. Three out of 69 staff members tested also were positive.
Twenty-three inmates out of 100 tested last week were positive at OCCC, and two staff members tested positive, according to the information posted on the DPS’ Facebook page.