By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(BOSTON) — The governor of Massachusetts has rescinded a plan to shorten the sentences of inmates in the state’s prison system for getting COVID-19 vaccinations, officials said Thursday.
Gov. Charlie Baker canceled the controversial plan less than a week after state Department of Correction Commissioner Carole Mici said in a memo that inmates could receive “earned good time” credit for getting the shot, writing, “I have determined the vaccine is significantly valuable to rehabilitation.”
But a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security told ABC News on Thursday that Baker, a Republican, called off the plan as soon as he was briefed on it.
“When the Governor’s office became aware of the memo, the decision was made to rescind it because the memo is not consistent with the Administration’s policies regarding reduced prison terms,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
In her memo, dated Jan. 28, Mici said that more than 3,500 of the state’s prison inmates had already received the first dose of the two-dose vaccination. Mici referred to the program as the “Vaccine Rehabilitative Program.”
Mici had offered 7 1/2 days of earned good time credit for inmates who watched and read educational materials about the virus and received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This will be the sole opportunity to earn EGT in this program category for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mici wrote.
“While we are working to stifle this virus through ‘herd immunity,’ we are not there yet,” Mici wrote. “We must remain vigilant by properly wearing masks, regularly hand washing/sanitizing and social distancing, as these practices continue to be our best defense.”
Prisons and jails throughout the country have been the settings of some of the biggest COVID outbreaks that health experts say stem from being in crowded, confined spaces that make social distancing difficult.
Data collected by The Associated Press and the Marshall Project shows that one in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for COVID.
At least 275,000 prisoners throughout the country have been infected by the virus and more than 1,700 have died as of mid-December 2020, according to data reviewed by the news organizations.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.