USA – ACLU – COVID-19 is Not Over for People Who Are Incarcerated

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, especially not for people who are incarcerated. The ACLU, our clients, and our allies predicted early on that serious illness and death would strike people in jailsprisons and immigration detention facilities disproportionately if government agencies did not take effective precautions, including by reducing the number of people in jails, prisons, and ICE detention.

Three years into the global and local devastation of COVID-19, those predictions have, tragically, proved to be true. And as with all aspects of the U.S. system of mass incarceration, people of color have disproportionately suffered the effects of COVID-19.

We Predicted the Fallout if Authorities Didn’t Reduce Jail and Prison Populations

Early in the pandemic, ACLU analysts conducted an epidemiological study in partnership with researchers from Washington State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Tennessee. We projected that the failure to reduce jail populations during the pandemic could lead to almost 100,000 more COVID-related deaths nationally — of incarcerated people, jail staff, and community members — than federal authorities had then predicted. As reflected in a recent report from UCLA Law’s Behind Bars Data Project and reporting by The New York Times, the ACLU’s modeling was accurate: It showed the profound risk COVID-19 presented to people in carceral facilities and their surrounding communities, especially if authorities did not act swiftly to reduce jail populations.