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December 19, 2020

"1 in 5 Prisoners in the U.S. Has Had COVID-19"

The title of this post is the headline of this Marshall Proeject accounting of the ugly state of the pandemic in incarceration nation. Here are some excerpts:

One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population. In some states, more than half of prisoners have been infected, according to data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press.

As the pandemic enters its tenth month — and as the first Americans begin to receive a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine — at least 275,000 prisoners have been infected, more than 1,700 have died and the spread of the virus behind bars shows no sign of slowing. New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far outstripping previous peaks in April and August....

Nearly every prison system in the country has seen infection rates significantly higher than the communities around them. In facilities run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, one of every five prisoners has had coronavirus. Twenty-four state prison systems have had even higher rates.

Not all states release how many prisoners they've tested, but states that test prisoners broadly and regularly may appear to have higher case rates than states that don't. Infection rates as of Tuesday were calculated by The Marshall Project and the AP, based on data collected weekly in prisons since March. Infection and mortality rates may be even higher, because nearly every prison system has significantly fewer prisoners today than when the pandemic began, so rates represent a conservative estimate based on the largest known population.

And here are just a few of many recent headlines reporting on some of the ugly particulars in various prison facilities and systems:

From Cincinnati Enquirer, "Coronavirus in Ohio: COVID-19 cases surging among state inmates, prison employees

From FOX10 Pheonix, "Yuma prison warden dies from COVID-19; facility fighting virus outbreak"

From NBC News, "'Like a war zone': Prison that freed Paul Manafort early now ravaged by Covid: Nearly 75 percent of the 856 prisoners at FCI Loretto in Pennsylvania tested positive for Covid-19 in the last month."

From WXYZ, "MDOC hits bleak milestone: Over 100 Michigan prisoners have died from COVID-19"

Sadly, I could links to dozens of stories about COVID outbreaks in prisons all around the country.  Especially given research (some noted here) detailing how COVID caseload grews in the broader community in regions with prisons and fails, I sure hope everyone sees the public health wisdom of prioritizing incarcerated persons for the vaccines.

December 19, 2020 at 12:29 PM | Permalink


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