Charleston County inmates offered monetary incentives for getting COVID-19 vaccine, Sheriff Graziano says

Local News

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Inmates at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center are being offered incentives for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a follow-up to a previous report from News 2, we now know how much inmates are being offered to get inoculated against the virus.

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano wrote an article for Medium.com talking about the jail’s decision to offer incentives – including monetary compensation – to adult “residents” for getting their stock of Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The money comes from the Inmate Welfare Fund, which Sheriff Graziano says is held in trust for the use of inmate’s benefits and “collected through purchases from the canteen,” she said.

Inmates will receive $25 per dose with the Moderna vaccine, and $50 for the Johnson & Johnson dose; however, she said that vaccines are not mandatory.

“That monetary incentive is put into their canteen, and if they leave our facility, we are legally bound to pay them out,” she said in the article. “If they begin the Moderna series while in jail, but are released before they can receive the second dose, we will either provide them with a ride to a vaccination clinic or give information on where they can go on their own.”

An inmate News 2 spoke with said a lot of the people who are booked into the Al Cannon Detention Center want to receive their vaccinations for health reasons.

“Have nothing, nobody, no support system, nobody to draw info from to call or ask questions, so when $50 gets mentioned, that is the only thing that lingers in their mind,” said inmate Randall Lewis.

“These guys behind these walls are still human beings and these guys behind these walls are still dealing with the virus,” said Aaron Hicks, who is the senior pastor of a local church. “Them being vaccinated [is] a good thing because they can return to their families vaccinated and a lot of them do have children and wives.”

At the time Sheriff Graziano’s article was published, the jail had one person being isolated in a COVID-positive unit which consisted of 58 people, and five units under medical observation or quarantine.

“When we learn of new cases, we separate them for safety purposes. We have people continually coming in and out of our jail, and many are testing positive, so we are faced with the impossible task of trying to halt community spread,” the sheriff said.

Graziano after seeing an uptick in cases coming into the jail increase dramatically, thanks in part to the Delta variant, she said it was time to become more aggressive in offering vaccines and how to encourage inmates to get inoculated.

So far, 359 people at the jail have been vaccinated, which Sheriff Graziano said translates to $15,600 in payouts to inmate canteen accounts.

She said more vaccines are being offered every day. Vaccines are being offered at all South Carolina prisons.

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