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COVID vaccination rate among NY state prison inmates at 46%

A group of incarcerated people in green state prison garb sewing surgical masks
Incarcerated people at Coxsackie and Clinton Correctional Facilities produced hundreds of thousands of surgical masks for use in state prisons during the pandemic.

All 32,000 people incarcerated in New York State prisons have been offered the COVID-19 vaccine and, to date, 46% have been vaccinated.

According to the NYS Dept. of Corrections and Community Supervision, there have been vaccine clinics at each of the state's more than 50 prisons.

In an emailed statement, DOCCS said 15,195 vaccines have been administered to date and additional vaccine clinics have been scheduled. However, the vaccination rate among incarcerated people is much lower than the statewide average of 62%.

To encourage vaccination among inmates, DOCCS said it's offering incentives, ranging from care packages from the prison commissary to barbeques.

Prior to the pandemic, some inmates were offered time with their families through the state's Family Reunion Program. A DOCCS official said that the program is resuming in September, but will only be available to inmates who are vaccinated.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that, starting in Sept., all state employees will either need to be vaccinated or get tested weekly for COVID.

It's unclear how many correctional officers and staff are currently vaccinated, though DOCCS said 8,148 staff have been administered the vaccine at DOCCS facilities.

The state's vaccine mandate will affect the 5,500 prison workers employed at the 13 state correctional facilities around the North Country.

Since the start of the pandemic, 6,609 people incarcerated in NYS prisons have been sick with COVID-19, about 20% of the state's prison population. Thirty-five inmates and 9 people on parole have died of COVID-19, including 5incarcerated in facilities in the North Country.

Among prison staff, 5188 have tested positive since last March and 8 have died of COVID.

Emily Russell