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Here's where testing shows the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in US prisons

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Here's where testing shows the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in US prisons

Social distancing is the best way to avoid spreading COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But in today’s prisons—designed in the late-18th century to mitigate the spread of disease and criminal behavior among prisoners—social distancing is virtually impossible except for those in solitary confinement. At any given time, nearly 2.3 million people are being held by the American criminal justice system. The facilities to house these individuals include 110 federal prisons and 1,833 state prisons. More than 55,000 people being held (often at local jails) have not been convicted or sentenced.

The U.S. has the highest prison rate in the world, with 698 people imprisoned for every 10,000 residents, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The Department of Justice in a 2020 report stated federal prison inmate populations are, on average, 12% to 19% higher than the prisons’ rated capacity. Overcrowding like this breeds higher contagion rates, increases the likelihood of insufficient medical care, and can spell a lack of access to personal hygiene products. When combined, it’s a perfect storm for the spread of a virus such as COVID-19.

As of June 1, there were more than 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff at U.S. jails and prisons and over 43,000 confirmed cases among residents at those facilities, according to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, spearheaded by Professor Sharon Dolovich. The project is monitoring cases and deaths of residents in prisons and jails, as well as local correctional departments’ responses to the pandemic, such as the release of prisoners. Stacker mined that data (updated as of June 1, 2020) to take a closer look at COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons and jails across the country. In basic terms, jail refers to a place that holds individuals who are being temporarily held for minor offenses or awaiting trial; prisons hold those who have been convicted of crimes and sentenced.

Because inmate access to COVID-19 testing and reporting of these results vary wildly from state to state, actual numbers of cases and deaths are likely higher. While such widespread testing remains out of reach for many prison population and staff, prison factories have remained open. In Ohio, mass testing was stopped despite outbreaks of the virus among inmates and staff. Elsewhere, as testing rates increase so too do COVID-19 cases. Complicating matters is the fact that prisoners statistically have higher instances of pre-existing health conditions that put them at more risk for serious symptoms from COVID-19. There are also many people going in and out of prisons all the time—from corrections officers and food service workers to visitors and inmates themselves, increasing the likelihood of spreading contagions. The CDC’s prison guidelines only recommend tests for current inmates exhibiting symptoms.

Keep reading to see where outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred, and how various states are dealing with these surges, whether by increasing testing, halting visitation, or releasing nonviolent or elderly offenders—as was the case with Paul Manafort’s early release to home confinement.

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Alabama

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 12 (Death toll: 1)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 61 (Death toll: 3)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Tutwiler (12 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 587 (out of 2,220 total residents)

Alabama is home to the most crowded prisons in the U.S., according to data analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics by The Appeal. It’s overcrowding—estimated to be at 167.8% of its rated capacity—was ruled by the Department of Justice in April 2019 to be in violation of the Constitution.

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Alaska

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 2 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 11 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Lemon Creek CC (Juneau) (11 cases among staff)

Alaska has since Feb. 2 screened all inmates being booked at a Department of Corrections (DOC) facility for COVID-19. As of June 1, just two inmates had tested positive out of 513 who were tested. The DOC in April began checking the temperatures of all staff members arriving at correctional facilities and screening all inmates scheduled to be transferred. A cluster of positive COVID-19 cases among correction officers at the Juneau Correctional Facility was reported in mid-April.

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Arizona

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 188 (Death toll: 7)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 88 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Florence (71 cases among residents)
- Residents released from jails: 2,277 (out of 9,810 total residents)

County prosecutors in Maricopa County lowered jail populations there by 30%. They did so by not filing as many charges: down from 734 cases the first week of March to 107 the second-to-last week of April, according to reporting from the Arizona Republic.

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Arkansas

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 1,251 (Death toll: 5)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 30 (Death toll: 0) - Residents released from jails: 216 (out of 408 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 300 (out of 17,759 total residents)

In April, Lincoln County—a rural part of the state with only three incorporated towns—became one of the biggest hotspots for coronavirus cases in the country because of an outbreak at a state prison there called the Cummins Unit. About 40% of the prisoners there tested positive for COVID-19 by April 24. The Cummins Unit had updated its number of cases on June 2 to 1,1016. This spike is likely not unique to Arkansas, but rather due to aggressive testing at the state’s prisons.

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California

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 4,656 (Death toll: 10)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 625 (Death toll: 1)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Los Angeles Jails (1,951 cases among residents, 287 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 9,696 (out of 28,144 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 3,418 (out of 114,000 total residents)

As of June 2, COVID-19 tests had been administered to 4.5% of residents in California’s prison system. Because of the limited testing scope, there is yet to be a clear portrait of how widespread COVID-19 is in the state’s prison system.

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Colorado

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 600 (Death toll: 2)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 46 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Sterling Correctional Facility (538 cases among residents)
- Residents released from jails: 1,060 (out of 3,700 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 3,552 (out of 20,000 total residents)

Criminal justice advocates including ACLU Colorado on May 8 sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis urging him to help reduce the likelihood of coronavirus spread among inmates by pushing for commutations and parole reforms that would help reduce the prison population in the state to single-cell occupancy. Sterling Correctional Facility, site of the state’s largest outbreak so far, is the biggest prison in Colorado.

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Connecticut

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 870 (Death toll: 7)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 380 (Death toll: 0)

The state of Connecticut intends to test all residents of jails, prisons, and psychiatric facilities for COVID-19 by the end of June. The aggressive measures, slated to begin the third week of May, come on the heels of rising case numbers among residents and staff at these facilities.

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Delaware

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 148 (Death toll: 7)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 89 (Death toll: 0)

Following Gov. John Carney’s March 12 emergency stay-at-home order, arrests for misdemeanor and felony crimes throughout the state fell by almost half. As of June 2, Delaware remains one of just three states (along with Hawaii and Nevada) to have not yet waived medical co-pays for inmates at state prisons.

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Florida

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 1,529 (Death toll: 12)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 265 (Death toll: 3)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Homestead CI (293 cases among residents, 25 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 1,769 (out of 12,519 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 3 (out of 96,009 total residents)

To reduce overcrowding—and potential virus spread—the Department of Justice in April allowed “compassionate releases” that would allow inmates to go home amid the pandemic. Included in such an allowance was former Florida Rep. Corrine Brown, who was convicted in 2017 on federal charges of conspiracy and fraud.

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Georgia

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 422 (Death toll: 17)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 166 (Death toll: 1)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Autry State Prison (71 cases among residents, 10 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 259 (out of 585 total residents)

The Georgia National Guard on May 11 began testing all inmates for COVID-19 at Lowndes County Jail as a precautionary measure. Testing was voluntary, however, anyone who refused a test was to be provided alternative housing arrangements to ensure the safety of fellow residents and staff.

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Hawaii

- COVID-19 cases among residents: (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: (Death toll: 0) - Residents released from jails: 978 (out of 2,639 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 823 (out of 2,189 total residents)

In response to coronavirus, the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered a reduction in jail and prison populations throughout the state. By May 10, numbers had dropped by 832 inmates since March 2.

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Idaho

- COVID-19 cases among residents: (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 7 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Eagle Pass, TX (1 cases among staff)

Idaho inmates filed a lawsuit on May 4 alleging overcrowding at the state’s largest prison, the Idaho Correctional Center. The residents claimed high numbers of inmates mean the prison department is unable to ensure sanitary toilets, representing higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Two of the cell blocks there, built to accommodate 504 people, as of the filing were alleged to be housing 824 residents.

 

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Illinois

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 770 (Death toll: 20)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 603 (Death toll: 3)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Cook County (549 cases among residents, 431 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 860 (out of 5,500 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 4,650 (out of 37,000 total residents)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker in March used an executive order to waive 14-day notifications to the state attorney’s office for early prison releases based on good behavior. Another executive order signed by the governor April 6 called for “medically vulnerable” members of the prison population to be released temporarily.

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Indiana

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 685 (Death toll: 19)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 309 (Death toll: 2)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Westville (WCC) (178 cases among residents, 106 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 115

To help quell the coronavirus outbreak, the Indiana Department of Correction claimed to NPR that inmates were being given hand sanitizer and anyone with COVID-19 symptoms was being isolated. NPR reported on disparate accounts, however, including complaints that symptomatic residents were kept in crowded areas.

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Iowa

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 23 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 18 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: IMCC (22 cases among residents, 9 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 700 (out of 1,000 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 1,000 (out of 8,519 total residents)

The Iowa DOC on March 23 announced the Iowa Board of Parole made a determination that 700 incarcerated individuals were eligible for release. The DOC further stated on April 20 that another 482 people were eligible for early release.

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Kansas

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 877 (Death toll: 4)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 112 (Death toll: 2)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Lansing (826 cases among residents, 96 cases among staff)

The Kansas Department of Corrections on May 11 announced it had completed COVID-19 tests for every resident of the Lansing Correctional Facility five days earlier. Of the people who tested positive, a full 86% were asymptomatic.

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Kentucky

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 363 (Death toll: 2)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 55 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Green River CC (362 cases among residents, 51 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 5,584 (out of 11,500 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 1,000 (out of 12,240 total residents)

Dr. Frank LoVecchio, a public health and emergency medicine specialist, testified May 11 in Louisville that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order to commute the sentences of 186 people convicted of felonies. The state also plans to release 743 people who are within six months of completing their sentences.

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Louisiana

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 712 (Death toll: 14)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 244 (Death toll: 6)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Orleans Parish Jails (172 cases among residents, 89 cases among staff)

By May 6, the majority of women being held at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel tested positive for COVID-19. Seventy-five percent of positive cases appearing in women who were asymptomatic.

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Maine

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 4 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 1 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Maine Correctional Center (MCC) (4 cases among residents)
- Residents released from jails: 650 (out of 1,800 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 157 (out of 2,240 total residents)

York County police officers in Maine began in March to issue summonses instead of arrests for minor offenses while judges delayed sentencing dates in order to prevent overcrowding in jails and prisons throughout the state. By April 15, these policies helped to halve prison populations in the county from before coronavirus reached Maine.

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Maryland

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 185 (Death toll: 7)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 315 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Jessup CI (74 cases among residents, 29 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 140 (out of 723 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 710 (out of 19,050 total residents)

Maryland’s ACLU called for more pervasive COVID-19 testing of prison populations throughout the state as case counts continued to climb. The Baltimore Sun reported on May 8 that Maryland was lagging in reports of its testing rates.

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Massachusetts

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 408 (Death toll: 8)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 99 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: MCI-Shirley (162 cases among residents, 21 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 929 (out of 7,173 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 390 (out of 7,697 total residents)

Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court in April determined nonviolent offenders and those held for parole violations and other minor crimes were eligible for early release from jails and prisons in order to staunch the spread of COVID-19 in those facilities. That ruling came on the heels of an emergency petition from the ACLU of Massachusetts along with the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Public Defender Agency of Massachusetts.

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Michigan

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 3,830 (Death toll: 67)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 345 (Death toll: 1)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Lakeland Correctional Facility (793 cases among residents, 34 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 717 (out of 2,489 total residents)

Five inmates and two staff members at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility in St. Louis, Michigan, on May 13 were reported to have tested positive for COVID-19. Seventy-two of the 77 tests given to prisoners came back negative. Thousands of other tests throughout the state’s prison population were still pending results.

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Minnesota

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 125 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 52 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Willow River (73 cases among residents, 4 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 512 (out of 1,208 total residents)

Daily jail bookings in Ramsey County hovered around 60 a day in March of 2019. This year, that number dropped to less than 20 every day. The drop was attributed not only to stay-at-home orders being followed but to different policing methods such as police officers being advised to only conduct arrests when public health or safety was being threatened.

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Mississippi

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 28 (Death toll: 2)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 4 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Marion-Walthall County Correctional Facility (12 cases among residents)

By late April, Mississippi’s DOC announced masks had been issued to every resident and staff member in the state’s prisons in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Earlier in April, the DOC reported on advising prisoners in high-density parts of prisons to sleep face-to-feet instead of face-to-face with those sleeping nearby. At the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, one court filing claimed over 100 residents there were forced to sleep within 18 inches from fellow inmates.

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Missouri

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 48 (Death toll: 1)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 32 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Southeast Correctional Center (46 cases among residents, 19 cases among staff)

Missouri’s DOC announced in April that all residents and staff members at Missouri prison facilities had been issued face masks. In addition, visitors and volunteers were barred from coming inside any prison facilities and isolation cells and wings were instituted for quarantine.

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Montana

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 2 (Death toll: 1)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 3 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Gallatin Reentry Program - Bozeman - Community (2 cases among residents)

Montana rolled out a plan in May to ramp up COVID-19 testing to 60,000 a day. Those numbers are intended to include all residents and staff members at state nursing homes, assisted-living centers, state prisons, and hospitals.

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Nebraska

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 7 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 11 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Community Corrections Center Omaha (CCC-O) (7 cases among residents)

The first three inmates tested for COVID-19 in Nebraska’s prison system received negative results on May 11. The following day, a resident at the Community Corrections Center-Omaha tested positive and prompted that facility to go into quarantine.

 

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Nevada

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 5 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 21 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: High Desert State Prison Indian Valley (5 cases among residents, 4 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 115 (out of 2,900 total residents)

As of mid-April, the official policy of Nevada’s DOC was to only test residents exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or who might have interacted with prison workers who had tested positive. Testing in this way has left open the possibility for significant gaps in learning who has coronavirus and how it may be spreading throughout facilities there.

 

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New Hampshire

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 1 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 8 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: NHSP-M (1 cases among residents, 7 cases among staff)

Just 14 New Hampshire inmates had been tested for COVID-19 as of May 11, none of whom tested positive. Since then, five cases came back positive at the High Desert State Prison in Clark County.

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New Jersey

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 1,837 (Death toll: 45)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 765 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (253 cases among residents, 75 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 2,058 (out of 8,933 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 54 (out of 20,000 total residents)

Tiffany Mofield, who had been quarantined for COVID-19 symptoms at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, was moved by a guard into solitary confinement where she succumbed on April 29 to complications from the virus. Her death adds to calls for improved care protocols at prisons. New Jersey has one of the highest mortality rates for prison residents amid the pandemic.

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New Mexico

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 41 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 5 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Otero County Prison Facility (OCPF) (40 cases among residents, 1 cases among staff)
- Residents released from prisons: 29 (out of 6,700 total residents)

Residents at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico reported that they had to sign waivers before being given face coverings in April to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Those face coverings, according to accounts provided to New Mexico in Depth, were made out of yellow prison clothes.

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New York

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 850 (Death toll: 19)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 2,677 (Death toll: 13)
- Site of biggest outbreak: New York City Jails (347 cases among residents, 1,401 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 1,577 (out of 5,843 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 8 (out of 41,000 total residents)

Workers at New York City federal jails in early May told the Daily News that masks given out at the facilities were inadequate for protection because of their size and lack of durability. Those masks are made by workers in the UNICOR program, which offers job-training to inmates for reentry after their sentences are up.

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North Carolina

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 682 (Death toll: 5)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Neuse CI (466 cases among residents)
- Residents released from jails: 43 (out of 195 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 1,950 (out of 34,850 total residents)

Prison officials at the Neuse Correctional Institution in North Carolina tested every inmate and member of the staff when COVID-19 numbers started to spike there. Sixty-seven percent of those residents tested has positive test results.

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North Dakota

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 10 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: NDSP (5 cases among residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 240 (out of 1,794 total residents)

North Dakota’s state parole board confirmed on May 12 that early release was approved for more prisoners in the state prison system in addition to the 56 in the data point above as a means of reducing prison populations and quelling the spread of coronavirus. The approvals total 119 early releases for residents of the North Dakota prison system. North Dakota does not regularly release testing data, leaving rates of testing and infection rates among prisoners ambiguous.

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Ohio

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 4,556 (Death toll: 75)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 668 (Death toll: 4)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Marion CI (2,127 cases among residents, 177 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 2,634 (out of 5,460 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 167 (out of 49,762 total residents)

Widespread testing and daily reporting from Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is providing a clear glimpse into how pervasive outbreaks of COVID-19 are in that state’s prison system. In addition to daily reports, the state has been working toward testing all residents and staff members regardless of whether those individuals present with COVID-19 symptoms.

 

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Oklahoma

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 2 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 8 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Dick Conner CC (2 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 404 - Residents released from prisons: 775 (out of 24,562 total residents)

Oklahoma’s DOC as of May 8 maintained its claim that just two of 24,000 individuals incarcerated in the state’s prison system had tested positive for COVID-19. Less than a month later, that number (as of June 1) had climbed to 4,556—demonstrating how misleading positive case counts can be when testing is inadequate.

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Oregon

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 157 (Death toll: 1)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 43 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Oregon State Penitentiary (123 cases among residents, 31 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 1,756 (out of 2,966 total residents)

Since data was collected, case counts have climbed quickly in Oregon among prison residents. COVID-19 cases at the Oregon State Penitentiary, site of the biggest outbreak, more than doubled to reach 68 by May 13. That number represented 43% of the 158 inmates tested at that facility as of press time.

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Pennsylvania

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 416 (Death toll: 7)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 172 (Death toll: 1)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Huntingdon (165 cases among residents, 52 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 1,771 (out of 5,966 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 746 (out of 44,500 total residents)

Twenty-five organizations in Pennsylvania have announced their support in late May for a hunger strike designed to pressure Gov. Tom Wolf to release 1,800 prisoners eligible for such action under an April 10 reprieve order. Releasing the prisoners would reduce overcrowding in the state's prisons, the organizations say, and lessen the risk of COVID-19 transmission among residents.

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Rhode Island

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 46 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 19 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility (39 cases among residents, 10 cases among staff)
- Residents released from prisons: 52 (out of 2,740 total residents)

An inmate at Rhode Island's Adult Correctional Institution’s Maximum Security facility on May 31 tested positive for COVID-19, bringing totals at that location to five as of press time. The state has maintained its suspension of visitations to prisons during the pandemic.

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South Carolina

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 91 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 73 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Kirkland (39 cases among residents, 8 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 127 (out of 1,657 total residents)

South Carolina's Department of Public Safety on June 1 announced that of 400 prisoners tested for COVID-19 at Caswell Correctional Center, more than 30 came back positive. In May, the ACLU filed charges against the Spartanburg County Detention Center for inadequate testing of inmates.

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South Dakota

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 3 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 3 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Jameson Prison Annex, Sioux Falls (1 cases among residents, 2 cases among staff)

The three members and residents of South Dakota’s Department of Corrections who tested positive for COVID-19 were reported on May 11 to have made full recoveries. The inmates were incarcerated at the Jameson Annex and South Dakota Women’s Prison; workers who tested positive were stationed at the Jameson Annex and South Dakota State Penitentiary.

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Tennessee

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 2,658 (Death toll: 4)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 81 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Trousdale Turney CC (1,315 cases among residents)
- Residents released from jails: 135 (out of 415 total residents)

Following the report that more than half of all 2,444 residents at Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville tested positive for COVID-19, tests were ordered May 1 for all workers and residents at state prisons. At the time, it was the third-largest such prison outbreak in the country.

 

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Texas

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 6,493 (Death toll: 44)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 1,074 (Death toll: 7)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Michael Unit (399 cases among residents, 47 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 2,886 (out of 17,102 total residents)

Widening testing for COVID-19 was announced May 13 for Texas prisons by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Medical restriction was ordered for 19,214 residents who may have had contact with staff or incarcerated individuals who had tested positive or were awaiting results.

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Utah

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 11 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Bonneville Community Correctional Center (10 cases among residents)

Utah’s Attorney General Office and the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, among others, submitted memorandums countering petitions filed April 1 by the Disability Law Center and ACLU of Utah requesting a faster release rate of state inmates.  Hundreds of prisoners had already been released by April 27, according to May 10 reporting from the Daily Herald; opponents cite public safety risks should residents of the state prison system be allowed out. The first case of COVID-19 at the Utah State Prison was announced May 29.

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Vermont

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 48 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 20 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: NWSCF (47 cases among residents, 18 cases among staff)
- Residents released from prisons: 300 (out of 1,630 total residents)

A staff member at Vermont’s Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility tested positive May 11 for COVID-19 among 84 workers tested. As of May 20, Black prisoners comprised 18% of positive COVID-19 tests in Vermont prisons despite representing just 9% of the prison population.

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Virginia

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 1,228 (Death toll: 9)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 139 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Dillwyn Correctional Center (324 cases among residents, 4 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 181 (out of 1,207 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 231 (out of 30,000 total residents)

The ACLU of Virginia announced May 12 that it, along with Charlottesville attorney Elliott Harding reached a settlement with Gov. Ralph Northam, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, and others on behalf of 27 Virginia inmates. The suit—which claimed the state violated the Constitution by not offering release from prison for high-risk individuals living in overcrowded conditions—ensures the DOC there will prioritize cases of inmates up for early release and takes into consideration potential pardons for medically vulnerable individuals.

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Washington

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 48 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 23 (Death toll: 1)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (28 cases among residents, 7 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 598 (out of 1,551 total residents)

At the site of Washington’s largest COVID-19 prison outbreak, inmates and their families—along with advocates—in April spoke to the Seattle Times about insufficient safety precautions and hygiene products such as soap. Just over half of the state’s prisoners named for early release had been as of May 11.

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Washington DC

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 205 (Death toll: 1)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 80 (Death toll: 1)

Amid growing case counts of COVID-19 among inmates in Washington D.C. prisons, the DOC told NBC Washington that the department’s medical arm had teamed up with DC Health and Unity Healthcare to expand contact tracing and health protections for staff and residents in city facilities, according to an April 25 report. Inmates who have tested positive are required to be fever-free for three days sans medicine and be symptom-free for a full week.

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West Virginia

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 119 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 8 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Huttonsville (119 cases among residents)
- Residents released from jails: 616 - Residents released from prisons: 87 (out of 6,800 total residents)

Since data was collected for this story, five residents at the Federal Correctional Institution, Gilmer, were confirmed as having COVID-19. No staff members at the facility were reported as testing positive, according to May 12 reporting from MetroNews.

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Wisconsin

- COVID-19 cases among residents: 247 (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 54 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Waupun Correctional Institution (213 cases among residents, 18 cases among staff)
- Residents released from jails: 1,811 (out of 381 total residents)
- Residents released from prisons: 1,637 (out of 22,000 total residents)

Of those residents released from state prisons throughout Wisconsin, the vast majority had been held for parole or probation violations. In the fiscal year 2017–2018, Wisconsin’s adult institutions on average were at 133.8% of institutional capacity.

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Wyoming

- COVID-19 cases among residents: (Death toll: 0)
- COVID-19 cases among staff: 1 (Death toll: 0)
- Site of biggest outbreak: Women's Center in Lusk (1 cases among staff)

The only case of COVID-19 among prison residents or staff in Wyoming so far came April 10 when the state’s DOC announced a worker at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk tested positive for COVID-19. Fellow workers who had been in direct contact with the individual who tested positive went into self-quarantine; no new cases have been reported since. Also that month, inmates from the Wyoming State Penitentiary and the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution spent time sewing “sneeze guards” for distribution to all fellow WDOC residents and staff throughout the state.

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