February 22nd, 2022

Omicron Behind Bars (2/14-2/18)

The Omicron variant is causing enormous surges in COVID infection in prisons and jails across the country; in many locations, these spikes are unprecedented. This week, we are continuing our periodic round-up of trends we have noticed in recent COVID data from carceral facilities.

Each round-up will inevitably be incomplete. Outbreaks are likely going undetected and occurring in facilities and systems that are not reporting data. Because of limited data transparency by carceral systems, we do not know the full story.

This, however, is what we found last week:

COVID infections 

Alaska reported 1,229 new infections in its prisons—the largest increase in cumulative COVID cases among all state and federal prison systems. This one-week increase amounted to more than 24% of all the infections in Alaska’s state prisons throughout the pandemic. There was also a notable increase of more than 1,500 reported cases in Utah prisons. Central Utah Correctional Facility and Utah State Prison each saw more than 200 new reported COVID cases last week alone.

The largest reported single facility spike occurred at Pinckneyville Correctional Center in Illinois, which reported 438 new COVID cases last week—the vast majority of the 516 new cases reported across the state prison system as a whole.

During the same week, California reported 261 new infections among prison staff, the most of any state. Colorado, the state reporting the second largest increase, reported 190 new staff cases.

COVID deaths 

Last week, the Alabama Department of Corrections and Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported that three incarcerated people died of COVID in their facilities—the most in any state system. The South Carolina Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons each reported two deaths as well.

Texas also reported three new COVID deaths among its prison staff, the most of any state. Missouri and Virginia each reported two new deaths among prison staff.


You can find all of our data on our GitHub.

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February 24th, 2022

Letter to New York Legislators: Pass The Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole Bills to Protect Public Health

On February 24, 2022, we sent a letter to the leadership of the New York State legislature in support of two bills, the Elder Parole Bill and the Fair and Timely Parole Bill, that would reduce the number of people in New York State prisons and thus lessen the risk of COVID in state prison facilities.