Since the beginning of the pandemic, prisons have been a hot bed for the spread the deadly virus.
Alabama is especially at risk as cases surge, as the state has the lowest vaccination rate of all 50, with only 34.5% fully vaccinated, according to Mayo Clinic data.
While the $5 canteen credit seems to be working, 103 inmates participated in the prison’s free vaccination program since the incentive was introduced.
The Alabama Department of Corrections reported a total of 15 people tested positive for Covid-19 as of July 30: six inmates and nine staff members. Last week, 27 people tested positive: nine inmates and 18 staff members- which was more than four times the amount of cases reported the previous week.
As of August 4, 1,666 incarcerated people have tested positive and 66 have died of the 16,907 prisoners who have been tested in Alabama, according to Covid Prison Project.
Alabama Department of Corrections is offering $5 canteen credit to prisoners who do or already have get the covid-19 vaccine
Since the incentive was introduced, 103 inmates participated in the prison’s vaccination program
Coronavirus cases have been spiking in Alabama prisons as the highly-contagious Delta variant has continued to spread
Other prisons have also been offering initiatives for inmates to get the vaccine.
Last month, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision randomly selected vaccinated individuals to receive a care package valued up to $75. In Pennsylvania, inmates were offered $25 in commissary credit.
But the incentives offered to incarcerated people pale in comparison to incentive programs being offered across the country.
New Yorkers who got vaccinated at ten designated spots were handed scratch cards with prizes worth up to $5 million on offer.
Nashville offered its citizens a range of prizes including a pair of Nashville Predators season tickets, valued at more than $5,000 while North Carolina is offering its residents $100 in some counties to vaccinated. Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department raffled off backstage passes to a Gucci Mane concert.
The Yankees and Mets were even offering free tickets to spectators who roll up their sleeves at the stadiums, while Vanguard Group Inc. is offering $1,000 to employees who get vaccinated by October, according to Bloomberg.
Alabama is the state has the lowest vaccination rate of all 50 states with only 34.5% fully vaccinated
Many companies and local governments are trying to incentivize people to get vaccinated
In prisons, the prizes may be less impressive, but vaccinations are arguably more important as the crowded close quarters are the perfect breeding ground for the virus.
In Alabama, 10,971 incarcerated people have now received at least one vaccination equaling 43.7% of the state’s total prison population. While that number is still below herd immunity and the national numbers, it is higher than the state’s vaccination rate.
‘A confined correctional environment in which social distancing is challenging and all communicable diseases, to include Covid-19, spread more easily is — put simply — starkly different than a community environment,’ department spokesperson Kristi Simpson told ABC News, also pointing to the fact that incarcerated people don’t have the ‘freedoms available to free citizens to ensure public safety.’
It comes just in time as last month thousands of federal convicts were beginning to be sent back to prison after being released to home confinement during the pandemic.
A memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel sent a week before Biden took office states that inmates whose sentences last beyond the official state of emergency declared for the pandemic have to go back behind bars.
‘We understand that approximately 40% of those prisoners would not have been eligible [for home confinement] absent the emergency authority,’ the order reads.
The CARES Act allowed about 4,000 nonviolent offenders to temporarily leave prison, the New York Times reports.
Covid-19 cases have been spiking as new variants have been spreading and vaccination rates have slowed
As Covid-19 infections have continued to rise so has the number of deaths in the country
As Covid-19 has continued to spread, the emergency period is not expected to end this year
Recent surges in COVID cases and concerns over the Delta variant mean the emergency period, declared in March 2020, likely won’t end this year.
The CARES Act directed the DOJ to allow lower-level cons released on home confinement to help slow the virus’ spread. Then-AG Barr sent the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) a memo with strict eligibility standards.
Officials reportedly pressed that the decision was made based off of law, not policy.
The Biden team is reportedly hesitant to issue a blanket commutation over the potential political risk and concerns on intervening with DOJ policy on such a wide scale.
But as an administration that has championed prison reform, Biden has come under intense pressure to revoke the Trump-era directive.
A letter signed by 20 advocacy groups including the ACLU and NAACP begged Biden to commute thousands of prisoners’ sentences.
‘This is your opportunity to provide second chances to thousands of people who are already safely out of prison, reintegrating back to society, reconnecting with their loved ones, getting jobs and going back to school,’ the letter sent last month read.
More than two dozen House Democrats and one Republican urged Biden to ‘reverse the Trump administration’s cruel and misguided decision to require thousands of people currently on home confinement to return to federal prison.
The Biden legal team’s decision backs a memo written by the Trump DOJ during the ex-president’s last days in office. It states that federal convicts must return to prison no more than 30 days after the official pandemic emergency declaration ends
As an administration that has championed prison reform, the Biden White House is under intense pressure to revoke the Trump-era directive (pictured: Clinton Correction Facility in New York)
‘Such a move would harm families, waste tax dollars, and undermine public safety.’
Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Cory Booker also sent Attorney General Merrick Garland a letter in late April urging him to rescind the Trump DOJ policy.
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley also supported the reversal during a hearing in April, citing statistics that say less than 1% of the criminals sent home under the CARES Act violated the terms of their home confinement.
When asked for a statement, the White House did not mention any pandemic-specific regulation.
‘President Biden is committed to reducing incarceration and helping people to re-enter society,’ White House spokesman Andrew Bates told the New York Times. ‘As he has said, too many Americans are incarcerated, and too many are Black and brown. His administration is focused on reforming our justice system in order to strengthen families, boost our economy and give people a chance at a better future.’