People incarcerated at the Bexar County jail now have the opportunity to receive a bag of goods from the commissary worth $100 if they get vaccinated.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters Monday that his agency rolled out the incentive program last Friday. So far, about 1,200 inmates have signed up for a shot.

Commissary items in the incentive packages include ramen noodle cups, cleaning products, toiletries, and snacks, Salazar said — an assortment of “our more popular items.”

“I can tell you we are not utilizing taxpayer funds to fund this,” he said. “What we’re using is commissary funds. … We’re using monies from that account that can be converted to agency use as long as it’s used for the welfare of inmates.”

The actual price of the incentive package is closer to $40, Salazar said, as the department purchases commissary items at cost.

The Bexar County Adult Detention Center currently houses around 4,400 people, 17 of whom had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday, Salazar said. That number is relatively low, especially taking into account the high population inside the jail and the constant flow of people in and out of the facility.

“It’s money well spent for us to be able to reinvest this — not just into the health of the inmates themselves, but in their families and in their communities as they reenter the community, they reenter the workforce,” he said. “We’re able to send them out in a healthier state being that they’ve been fully vaccinated.”

San Antonio-based Carvajal Pharmacy will continue to administer Pfizer vaccines inside the jail, Salazar said. Everyone in the facility, including detention deputies, is still required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status; jails are exempt from Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting companies or government entities from requiring masks.

All Bexar County Sheriff’s Office employees also have the opportunity to receive a vaccine incentive in the form of a health insurance rebate up to $1,000, a program that county commissioners approved in August.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.