COVID-19 in Prisons: The Latest Numbers in 3 Graphs

July 29, 2020

New data analyses from The Council of State Governments Justice Center show that COVID-19 in state prisons is continuing to spread. While states differ in their approaches to testing, containment, and data reporting, available state case numbers point to a continued increase in cases of the virus in state correctional facilities.

The following three graphs visualize the total number of reported cases in state prisons as of July 26; how infection rates differ among incarcerated people, corrections staff, and the general public; and data on 15 states with the highest cases in their prisons.

1. The number of COVID-19 cases in state prisons is at its highest point since the pandemic began, with more than 64,000 total cases.

In the past two weeks, between July 13 and July 26, cases grew by just over 11,300 in state prisons—from 52,901 to 64,208, a 21.4-percent increase.

2. The proportion of incarcerated people infected with COVID-19 in state prisons continues to grow, indicating that many states are struggling to contain the virus in their correctional facilities.

Early on, the outbreak was more pronounced among corrections staff, but it quickly began spreading to a broader population. On April 15, corrections staff were infected at more than double the rate of both incarcerated people and the general public. But as of July 26, incarcerated people were infected at more than four times the rate of the general public, and nearly two times the rate of corrections staff. Corrections staff are now infected at a rate of two and a half times that of the general public.

3. The top four states leading the country in COVID-19 infections among incarcerated people in state facilities—Texas, California, Florida, and Ohio—account for 50 percent of all state prison cases.

The total incarcerated population in these four states alone amounts to 34 percent of the total incarcerated population in state prisons nationwide. Caseloads in several states, including Minnesota, Ohio, and Tennessee, began to flatten in the late spring, which could reflect state testing practices or successful containment strategies.

For more information about COVID-19 in the criminal justice system, please visit our COVID-19 Assistance page.

About the Author


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Angela Gunter
Senior Research Associate, Research
Angela Gunter’s work primarily focuses on the data monitoring of justice reinvestment projects during Phase II policy implementation. She supports various ad hoc research efforts, including the 2014 Recidivism Reduction report, the Reentry and Employment pilot program, and the evaluation
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of the pretrial process for Bexar and Dallas counties Angela began her career in criminal justice in 2001 at the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, where she worked on forecasting the impact of juvenile justice policy options for the Texas Legislature and creating monthly projections of bed capacity for juvenile offenders. Angie later joined the JFA Institute and conducted research on different aspects of the criminal justice system, including parole, probation, and juvenile justice in Texas, Kansas, and Puerto Rico. In 2008, Angie worked with the CSG Justice Center as a consultant on various projects, including mental health IT development for the State of Alaska. Prior to her career in criminal justice, Angie worked in the private sector as a business systems analyst where she oversaw the project lifecycle of custom-built software applications. She received her MPA from Indiana University and her BA from Rice University.
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