Updated: 4/8/21 – 1:57 P.M.
BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Broome County Sheriff David Harder said he will offer $10 to each person incarcerated at the county jail who receives the COVID-19 vaccine.
It is a move to quell vaccine hesitancy, but comes as many corrections officers remain unvaccinated.
Harder said the vaccine supply for county jails is limited. As of last week, only three people incarcerated at the Broome County jail have been vaccinated.
Still, he said he will offer the $10 incentive to each person incarcerated at the jail as doses become available.
“There are inmates who will not take the vaccine, so we’re trying to encourage by saying, ‘You take the vaccine and here’s 10 bucks to your account and you can spend it however you want when you’re in the facility,’” Harder said.
The money would go into residents’ commissary accounts to be used only at the jail.
Harder said the jail gets its vaccine allotment from Broome County, which has its hands full vaccinating New Yorkers 16 or older.
“The state puts out [only] so many doses and you got the public to take care of, too,” he added.
The jail saw a surge of COVID-19 cases this winter, with 47 positive test results between Nov. 29 and Feb. 6.* That included 31 positive results from a single day, Dec. 2. That same day, Harder said most of the housing units at the jail went under lockdown.
At the time, Harder had said only two people inside the jail had tested positive, as well as a few corrections officers.
The sheriff’s office did not provide data on cases among corrections officers over the winter. Harder said he isn’t going to offer a similar vaccine incentive to them, even though he said around half of the jail’s staff has refused to get the shot.
“You can’t force them to take it,” Harder said, adding that a fully-vaccinated jail would be easier to manage. “I’d like to be able to mandate, but I can’t do that.”
New York began vaccinating corrections officers in early February, but people in jails and prisons have faced more barriers. The state expanded eligibility to people in jails three months after other congregate care settings became eligible.
Last week, a state judge ruled that withholding vaccines from people incarcerated violates the 14th Amendment.
*This story has been updated with an additional positive COVID-19 test result that was not previously included. The correct number is 47.