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New incentive to get more Georgians vaccinated taps into legal system

Hall and Dawson Counties are now offering defendants sentenced to community service the incentive to cut their time as much as in half by getting COVID vaccinations.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Day by day, there are efforts to get more people in Georgia vaccinated. Now, there is a new incentive that is tapping into the legal system.

Defendants in Hall and Dawson Counties who must do community service as part of their sentences could cut their time in half by getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

“Somebody mentions 20 hours and that may not sound like a lot, but that half a work week and if somebody can get a shot instead of doing 20 hours of community service, that is a pretty strong incentive,” said Andy Maddox, Senior Assistant Public Defender of Hall County.

The need for more vaccinations in Hall County is strong. The Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said only 29% of people in Hall County have gotten at least one shot.

Across Georgia, 37% of the population has, while the national average is 47%.

Hall County Court Administrator Jason Stephenson said the Superior Court recognizes the commitment made by defendants who take advantage of the offer.

“For some offenders it does seem appropriate to recognize that the time and the cost involved and perhaps lining up childcare, taking time off from work, arranging for transportation,  and making to a vaccination site-  not once but twice. This recognizes the commitment they've made in doing that,” he said.

Now in its first stages, Maddox sees the opportunity gaining momentum.

This type of incentive is believed to be the first of its kind in the state of Georgia. The vaccination option for a defendant given community service in both Hall and Dawson Counties is being closely watched across the state.

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