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March 26, 2021

The new death penalty: latest reporting chronicles that COVID has now killed more than 2500 prisoners in the United States

I have been pleased that the encouraging slow down in the number of national COVID deaths has also been reflected in prisoner COVID death in recent times: though prisoner COVID death increased by over 100 some weeks in December and January, lately there have been only about a dozen weekly deaths reported.  However, I am still sad to be reporting that we have now passed yet another remarkable milestone in COVID prisoner deaths according to the data assembled by The Marshall Project. 

I am grateful that The Marshall Project is continuing the critical job of counting via this webpage prisoner deaths from coronavirus, reports as of Thursday, March 25, 2021 that there are now "at least 2502 deaths from coronavirus reported among prisoners."  It should come as no surprise to regular readers that we have generally seen increases and decreases in COVID cases and deaths that largely track the general population; in this particular context, prisons are very much reflective of broader community realities.   We are also seeing a relatively reduction in reports of correctional staff dying from COVID, but The Marshall Project still reports we are up to "at least 195 deaths from coronavirus reported among prison staff." 

I am hopeful that we are not far from having all incarcerated persons and staff fully vaccinated, though there are disconcerting reports of vaccines not being made available to prisoners and of prison staff refusing to get vaccinated.

A few of many prior related posts:

March 26, 2021 at 09:36 AM | Permalink


According to the Marhsall Project, as of March 2021, it is becoming impossible to track the number of new CV-19 infections among Bureau of Prisons inmates, because the BOP is removing the positive test results for inmates who have subsequently been released from prison! Here in Kentucky, the failure of Governor Andy Beshear and Department of Corrections officials to act to protect inmates is outrageous. About 2/3 of all state prison inmates have contracted CV-19 and 48 have died. 5 prison staff have also died. Only 50.9% of prison guards and staff have been vaccinated (because getting vaccinated is still voluntary). Kentucky is #2 in America in terms of inmates contracting CV-19 per 10,000 inmates. The Kentucky Department of Corrections cannot even generate data for more than 7,000 additional state inmates (Class D felons, the lowest level of felony), who are serving their sentences in county jails. Until recently, the Governor refused to allocate any vaccine does to state prison inmates, despite the fact that they are among the highest risk people in the state for contracting CV-19. A week ago, Kentucky finally allocated vaccines does for state prison inmates 70 and older, of which there are fewer than 200. In the free world in Kentucky, vaccine doses are now available for those age 40 and older, and for younger people with health risks, including high blood pressure and obesity. Why shouldn't prison inmates get at least the same vaccine availability as people in the "free world" in Kentucky? I am hoping that someone will sue Kentucky and its officials for discriminating against the inmates in vaccine availability, despite the fact that they are among the most at-risk people in the entire state for contracting CV-19. I believe that the conduct will satisfy the legal standard of "deliberate indifference" set forth in the Supreme Court's decision in "Farmer v. Brennan", 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This situation is deeply disturbing.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Mar 27, 2021 7:16:32 AM

2500 deaths among 3 million inmates is in proportional terms a smaller toll than the nationwide half million deaths among 350 million population.

Big caveat -- the statistics were not gathered in the same way. For example, it is possible that more covid cases among inmates go undiagnosed than they do in the general population.

Another caveat -- the age distributions are different in the two groups, with the general population having a higher proportion of elderly.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Mar 31, 2021 11:13:18 PM

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