NC prisons offer incentives for offenders to get vaccine

Published 10:50 pm Saturday, January 30, 2021

RALEIGH (AP) — Most North Carolina prisoners can get five days knocked off their sentences if they receive COVID-19 vaccinations, state corrections officials said on Friday.

A package of incentives, which also include extra visitations and a free 10-minute phone call, were unveiled a few weeks after prison leaders said they were considering ways to motivate prisoners to obtain the two necessary doses.

“We think we’ve put together a high impact package,” Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee said, according to WRAL-TV.

About 21,000 of the 29,000 offenders behind bars are eligible for sentence reductions. Those who aren’t would receive $5 prison canteen credits.

The system has received 3,300 vaccine doses from the state, prison spokesman Brad Deen said Friday, with another 2,000 doses expected next week. Vaccinations are currently voluntary for prisoners and staff.

While 850 offenders have received their first dose so far, about 2,800 of the 14,100 staffers have taken their first shots, the Department of Public Safety said. The staff total includes people who received doses that were separate from the prisons’ supply.

About 530 prisoners have active COVID-19 cases, and eight offenders are hospitalized, the department said Friday. Forty-two prisoners have suffered COVID-related deaths during the pandemic, the department said.