Updated: September 27, 2022
In a recent letter to the Department of Public Safety, Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella expressed his opposition to the department’s $615,000 vaccine incentive program for qualified inmates.
Those in custody between March 3 of this year and Dec. 31, 2024 who get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are eligible to receive a one-time $50 deposit into their spendable trust account. The incentive applies to Hawaiʻi inmates throughout the state and those housed in Arizona.
“I am writing to request the Hawaiʻi State Department of Public Safety… cease and desist the start of its incentive program that pays $50 to qualified inmates who get fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus,” Senate Minority Leader Fevella wrote. Sen. Fevella has requested scheduling of a public hearing so that the members of the Legislature and the public can learn about the program details.
DPS Director Max Otani reportedly responded to Senate Minority Leader Fevella’s letter saying:
“We were fortunate to receive these funds and it is our belief that this incentive will assist us with prevention of the spread of COVID within our facilities. While it may be too soon to determine if the incentive increased vaccination acceptance among inmates, PSD is exploring various options to promote the vaccine and to keep our inmates, staff and the community safe from the virus.”
Sen. Fevella said he agrees that the state needs to “prioritize the health and safety of the incarcerated and adult correctional officers and staff working in correctional facilities;” however, he has also asked Director Otani, “what efforts were taken to consider other options such as non-cash incentive programs and mandates.”
The funds for the inmate vaccination incentive program is provided by federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.