Some people respond to events with hearts and minds firmly in the real world. Then there are those like the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, which seems to be clueless.

The uproar is over a program to encourage more incarcerated people in the state to get the COVID-19 vaccine through a Department of Corrections and Community Supervision vaccine incentive program.

DOCCS reported the program will offer incentives to the vaccinated incarcerated population from facility commissary to a barbecue. And NYSCOPBA is asking, Where is our barbecue?

The union should know that DOCCS also reported that as of last Friday, there were 6,602 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the incarcerated population in state prisons and 375 among parolees. Compare that to 5,175 confirmed cases among staff.

Deaths among the incarcerated population number 35, including four at Coxsackie Correctional Facility in Greene County, second only to the Fishkill Correctional Facility, with six, according to the DOCCS report. Eight staff have died from COVID, according to the report.

NYSCOPBA wants to know why their members are not being offered vaccine incentives.

“They offered up incentives to inoculate the inmate population, yet we’re the front line,” NYSCOPBA President Michael Powers said. “We’re in those facilities 24/7. I know that it’s a personal choice to get vaccinated, but that may have gone a bit further for us had that incentive been offered to us.”

Corrections officers are on the front lines, yes, but they are all not working 24 hours a day in confined, airless spaces. Inmates are in their cells most of the time; they don’t get to leave at the end of their shift. And yes, it is a personal choice to get vaccinated, but prison employees are free to make that choice when they are not on duty and have access to clinics or PODs. Inmates don’t get that freedom or that choice.

The union also neglects to mention that the average annual salary of a corrections officer in the Capital Region is $33,000 to $66,000, according to Salary.com. Meanwhile, inmates in New York are among the nation’s lowest paid, earning an average of 62 cents per hour, according to a study from the Prison Policy Initiative published in 2019.

We agree that correctional officer is one of the toughest and most potentially dangerous jobs in New York. But NYSCOPBA isn’t doing itself any favors by complaining about incentives and asking, “What about me?”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(2) comments

Chatty

You're comparing apples to oranges! Inmates made the choice to commit crimes and harm society. And yes, many were born into generational poverty but our unique educational system was supposed to help all. The correctional officers seek employment to support their families and pay the taxes that keep the state system operational. Since when don't CO's lives matter?? They are frequently portrayed as the negative faction in this system. Try working in their shoes, you'll soon feel the disparity.

Jhamilton59

There are nearly three times the amount of inmates than officers in these prisons. The percentage of officers that contracted covid is much greater than inmates.

And yes, while these Officers did make the decision to work in these prisons , the inmates also made the decision to commit felonies, get convicted and sentenced to prison time.

I think it’s preposterous to complain about inmate wages. Maybe they should unionize and negotiate their pay…. Oh wait they can’t, they lost that right when they broke the law and landed themselves in prison.

I could say with some certainty that prison workers had one of the most dangerous jobs during the pandemic. While the majority of the state got to work from home or not work at all and collect an incentive to do so, correction officers has no choice but to put on their uniforms and report to the prison they are assigned to and work in an environment that had a high probability of contracting covid.

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