Prisoners are among those with the greatest risk of sickness and death as a result of COVID-19, due to overcrowding and their inability to socially distance.
Nationwide, the known infection rate for COVID-19 in jails and prisons is about 2.5 times higher than in the general population. More than 68,000 incarcerated people and staff have coronavirus infections, and 462 people have died.
Seven of the 10 largest outbreaks in the country have been at correctional facilities, including two Ohio prisons. Widespread testing at a federal prison in Lompoc, California, has revealed another large cluster. Nearly 70% of people incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution Lompoc tested positive.
Given the huge differences in prison testing frequency, the effects of the pandemic have varied widely among state prison systems.
Furthermore, another group is at risk in these close quarters: Correctional officers, nurses, chaplains, wardens and other prison workers. We know less about how coronavirus impacts them than how it impacts prisoners, even though they have the potential to carry it beyond prison walls.
It’s difficult to assess how prison workers are being affected because many aren’t being systematically tested. While more than 9,665 prison staff members have tested positive, only 41 deaths have been publicly reported.