Calif. prison workers can win gift cards, $1,000 lottery prize if they get COVID shot
In addition to the individual awards, there will be two group awards for adult institutions
By Lara Korte
The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO — California's federal receivership, which oversees state prison healthcare, is rolling out prizes and a lottery to persuade state prison employees to become vaccinated against COVID-19 in a new effort to persuade reluctant workers to get the shots.
The perks include gift cards and a statewide prize of $1,000.
As of this week, about 44% of the 65,000 or so people who work for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.
The virus rocked the institutions over the past 16 months, killing 224 incarcerated people and infecting more than 49,000. More than 15,000 prison employees also tested positive for COVID-19. At least seven institutions have had so many COVID-19 cases that they now have herd immunity.
Receiver J. Clark Kelso announced the vaccine incentives in an email to staff last week. Employees are eligible if they get vaccinated during a statewide clinic event in May, were previously vaccinated in the department, or can show proof of vaccination from outside the department.
Employees who don't receive the vaccine are also eligible to enter the drawing, so long as they complete a 30-minute vaccine "educational module" online and sign a declination form, according to the staff email.
Employees at adult correctional institutions can now show proof of vaccination and enter to win one of the 90 gift cards worth $20 given to each location, as well as a single $500 gift card per location. Those working at non-adult institutions and offices will be entered to win one $100 gift card per location.
In addition to the individual awards, there will be two group awards for the adult institutions. The location that has the largest percentage of staff vaccinated and the institution that achieves the largest gain in percentage of staff vaccinated in May will receive a stipend with assistance to host an appreciation event.
A spokesperson with California Correctional Health Care Services said the department began administering vaccines targeting frontline workers and vulnerable patients in December 2020.
For months, California prison employees have expressed reluctance to become vaccinated. A survey described to state lawmakers in early February showed only half of them were willing to get a vaccine at that time.
In a November public service announcement reminding staff to wear masks, California Correctional Peace Officers Association Rank and File President Neil Flood said "whether you believe in the virus or not, you should protect your parents and your family."
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom praised CCPOA President Glen Stailey for his work developing trust with members around vaccines. Newsom declined to say he'd order prison employees to become vaccinated.
"We have his back in advancing those efforts," Newsom said. "We have no further announcement to make as it relates to whether or not we're going to mandate those vaccines. We just want to give the opportunity to build on the work that (Stailey) and his team.... have advanced."
Starting on May 10 through May 28, the department is hosting easily accessible open vaccine clinics for staff who may have been hesitant during the initial rollout to accept the vaccine. The details of the reward program are being finalized and awards will be announced in June.
"We will continue our education efforts for both staff and residents in an attempt to get as many individuals vaccinated as possible," CCHCS said in a statement. "With the continued drop in COVID-19 cases in our institutions, and the increase of vaccine availability throughout the state's prisons, CDCR/CCHCS are following a common-sense reopening plan that is anchored in health care guidelines and guidance to be able to begin to bring back important programs such as in-person visiting and rehabilitation opportunities."
(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)