How much are Hawaii inmates getting paid to get the COVID vaccine?


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is offering inmates $50 to get fully vaccinated against COVID, while testing and vaccination remain voluntary.

Inmates in DPS custody who become fully vaccinated between March 3, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2024 are eligible to receive the one-time incentive reward. The payment will be sent to the inmate’s trust account.

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“DPS 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.” 

DPS is also coordinating with the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona to offer this incentive to Hawaii inmates housed at the out-of-state facility. There are currently 2,530 inmates in custody at both facilities who qualify for the payment. Another 137 inmates are pending full vaccination status.

The last point-in-time study conducted by the DPS on Sept.14, recorded 66% of inmates had been fully vaccinated. Correctional facilities continue being hot spots for the coronavirus, the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) detected more than 700 COVID cases in the last 14 days in jails on Oahu and the Big Island.

Senator Clarence Nishihara, who is the chair of the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Public Safety, said he is in favor of the program because he supports measures to increase COVID vaccinations.

“You want to stop any spread that could create bigger problems,” Sen. Nishihara said. “Not only among the inmate population but those in the correctional industry that work with them; you don’t want them coming down with COVID.”

House Representative Takashi Ohno is also in favor of the one-time payment incentive. He said DPS is being creative in trying to mitigate the COVID outbreaks inside its facilities, although he could see how some members in the community may not completely agree with the program.

“I’ll admit it’s unorthodox, but again I want to applaud their creativity. It’s not unheard of, there were raffles for individuals to receive prizes earlier on to try to get the general population vaccinated,” Rep. Ohno said. “I think that in this case, you’ve got to perhaps plug your nose and realize that this is going to help us get to the end of the pandemic.”

DPS received approval for $615,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds to be used as an incentive initiative for those in custody.   

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

Click here for DPS’ COVID response efforts and inmate testing data.

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