January 26th, 2023 • Eireann O'grady
Capturing a Piece of History: Stories from Advocates Who Lawyered on Behalf of Incarcerated Individuals During the COVID Pandemic
A volunteer-led effort, the Oral History team conducted dozens of interviews with attorneys and advocates who worked on behalf of incarcerated clients during the COVID pandemic. Eireann O'grady, the Oral History team lead, discusses how the project came to be and introduces several themes that run through the interviews. View the entire archive at: uclacovidbehindbars.org/oral-history-project.
January 13th, 2023
We spoke to the health and human rights expert about the impacts of COVID on incarcerated people around the world, poor data transparency by just about all countries, and the potential for a new UN treaty requiring better data collecting and reporting.
Study: Hispanic People in Texas Prisons Died of COVID at a Rate Double Their White Peers, Black People Died at Rate 1.6 Times
A New Study from UCLA finds that Hispanic People Died of COVID at Twice the Rate of their White Peers, and Black People Died at Rate 1.6 Times. Prison Crowding and Medical Copays Could Be Driving These Disparities.
Instead of declaring the pandemic over and backing off of the measures that protect our communities, such as testing and publicly reporting COVID data, jails should be sites of increased surveillance and study, where public health techniques like genomic sequencing are prioritized.
October 31st, 2022 • UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project Team
This fall, we’ll publish a nationwide death-in-prison database. The database will serve as a partial replacement for—and, in significant ways, improvement upon—the reporting that the Department of Justice has effectively ended.
October 20th, 2022 • Josephine Wang
Grassroots team volunteer-turned-leader reflects on the work completed by the team over the course of the pandemic.
21 States and D.C. Have Stopped Reporting Active COVID Cases in Prisons, Despite Active Community Outbreaks
COVID outbreaks are still occurring in communities across the country. But fewer states are reporting COVID cases behind bars.
October 3rd, 2022 • Elif Yücel
Only 16% of youth detention facilities nationwide have reported COVID data. Specifically, only 1% county-run facilities, which make up over half of the youth facilities, have reported COVID data. We must do better. Just as counties have kept track of the spread of COVID in K-12 schools, equal emphasis should be placed on tracking the spread in juvenile justice facilities. As the pandemic continues and new variants arise, the public must be able to access information on the spread of the virus.
September 29th, 2022 • Anamely Salgado
Twenty-two states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico do not provide relevant COVID safety protocol on their youth detention departments’ websites. Some states provide limited information. Notably, no state’s website includes information for every category we tracked.
September 23rd, 2022 • Joshua Manson
Our investigation reveals that in the hotels where ICE housed detainees, infection rates hovered around 50 percent. We consider what might be behind that failure and what it might mean for immigration policy.
September 20th, 2022
Letter to the California Governor: Pass The Compassionate Release Bill to Protect Medically Vulnerable
On September 16, 2022, we sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom in support of Assembly Bill 960 to expand compassionate release for terminally ill and medically incapacitated incarcerated people in California.
September 9th, 2022 • Amanda Klonsky
We have seen during the COVID pandemic the ways that mass incarceration can accelerate the spread of a dangerous virus. Unfortunately, this experience does not leave great cause for optimism that jails and prisons are prepared to respond effectively to monkeypox outbreaks.
August 22nd, 2022 • Joshua Manson
What does the appointment of a new BOP head mean for the more than 140,000 people in its custody?
August 4th, 2022 • Joshua Manson
Sentencing Commission Data Provides Comprehensive Confirmation of Paltry Compassionate Release Rates During the Pandemic
In May of this year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission released its latest data report, revealing disturbing trends in federal courts’ responses to compassionate release motions filed in fiscal years 2019 and 2020, as well as equally troubling explanations for those trends.
August 4th, 2022 • Sharon Dolovich
Many of the data sets we began crafting in pandemic early days continued to grow and have ultimately proved crucial to efforts by advocates, journalists, activists, academics and other stakeholders to make sense of the impact of COVID on people in custody and on the people who work in carceral settings. But not all our initial data-gathering efforts had staying power.
June 14th, 2022 • Isabelle Geczy
In 2019, a bill was introduced in Nevada to comprehensively reform the state's geriatric parole system and allow more aging people out of prison. But following its implementation during pandemic, just six people were found eligible -- and zero received a parole hearing.
May 25th, 2022 • Aparna Komarla, Covid In-Custody Project
In California jails, sheriffs have been left in charge of COVID mitigation. The results have been disastrous.
In California and across the country, health officials have taken a backseat in addressing the COVID pandemic in county jails. In their absence, it's been local sheriffs who have been left in charge.
Public health experts are again predicting new COVID surges in the coming weeks, and incarcerated people are still at heightened risk for infection and death. But still, two years into the pandemic, there are enormous gaps in what the public will know.
April 7th, 2022
A year ago, we launched our Data Reporting and Quality Scorecards to assess COVID data reporting and quality by carceral agencies. We're updating our scorecards again to reflect the current realities of COVID data reporting behind bars. This round, 49 of 53 agencies received a failing score – the most ever.
Failure to Decarcerate Jails Has Led to Unnecessary Deaths and Widespread Infection During Omicron Surge
Recent data show that, since the Omicron variant first appeared in the U.S., COVID case numbers in local and county jails across the country have increased rapidly, leaving people in jails at high risk of infection and death from the virus once again.
March 4th, 2022
This week, our staff provided testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Immigration about the crisis of COVID in ICE detention facilities in New York and New Jersey. Here is what we said.
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.
February 22nd, 2022
The Omicron variant is causing enormous, in some cases unprecedented, surges of COVID behind bars. Here's what we saw last week.
In recent weeks, infection rates have been higher than ever among people in ICE detention. Earlier this month, the agency reported 3,158 active cases, or an infection rate of roughly 15 percent. With population levels rising -- nearly 50 percent higher than they were a year ago -- the solution is clear: decarceration.
February 7th, 2022
The Omicron variant is causing enormous, in some cases unprecedented, surges of COVID behind bars. Here's what we saw last week.
The Omicron variant is causing COVID case surges in prisons across the country, with some facilities seeing their highest infection rates ever. State and federal agencies must double down on efforts to prevent and control outbreaks behind bars.
January 31st, 2022
While COVID-19 has torn through prisons and jails, it has also caused operational changes that have shaped and disrupted life for those inside. Today, we are publishing an original, indexed dataset — the UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Prison Policy Index — that displays more than 3,500 policy documents announcing those changes in state and federal prisons nationwide.
January 11th, 2022 • Joshua Manson
Last month, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report showing that state and federal prison populations dropped nearly 15 percent from 2019 to 2020. During the same time, however, the number of people released from prison also dropped, by nearly 10 percent.
November 3rd, 2021 • Joshua Manson
The Biden Administration Plans to Send Thousands of Medically Vulnerable People Back to Federal Prisons. Here’s Why That Would Be a Deadly Mistake.
The Biden administration is set to implement a Trump administration decision to send thousands of medically vulnerable people back to prison. Our new report shows why this would be a public health disaster.
September 29th, 2021
Study: Hispanic people in Texas prisons dying of COVID-19 at rate double their White peers, Black people dying at rate 1.6 times
A survey of deaths in Texas prisons found that Hispanic and Black populations in prison have died of COVID-19 at rates far exceeding their White peers.
September 24th, 2021
This week, we provided testimony to the Georgia House Democratic Caucus Committee on Crisis in Prisons on the state of COVID-19 in Georgia state prisons. Here's what we said.
A recent study reveals that federal judges appointed by Democrats were far more likely to grant compassionate release during the pandemic than those appointed by Republicans. But emergency release should be about public health, not partisan politics.
September 1st, 2021 • Marjorie Naila Segule
Record numbers of children are being hospitalized for COVID-19 across the country. But still, children who are incarcerated or held in state custody are being left behind in the vaccine rollout.
August 27th, 2021
In June 2020, we established a public records investigative team to obtain the COVID data carceral agencies don't publish. Since then, we've utilized state and federal public records statutes to request and collect pandemic-related data from a range of governmental bodies.
As the Delta variant causes surges across the country, the states with the greatest increases in new cases are also the least transparent about the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.
With COVID-19 case numbers rising across the country, prisons workers remain largely unvaccinated, but agencies are doubling down on restrictions for incarcerated people.
August 10th, 2021 • Dylan Lee
Have a legal research question about COVID behind bars? Check out the Health Is Justice Litigation Hub, a collaboration between the UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project, Zealous, the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School, and the Bronx Defenders, a searchable database of court decisions and legal filings relating to the pandemic behind bars.
We've been collecting data related to grassroots organizing efforts since the start of the pandemic. Here's what we've found.
As the Delta variant causes new outbreaks in prisons, now is the time for more transparency, not less
Over the past two months, more and more carceral agencies have taken their COVID-19 data dashboards offline or reduced the amount of information they report concerning the health of the people who live and work in their prisons.
We released a report highlighting the importance of decarceration to prevent continued COVID-19 surges among people held in ICE detention.
July 20th, 2021 • Hope Johnson
New Government Report Confirms Low Grant Rates of Compassionate Release During Pandemic, Need for Greater Transparency
Last week, the United States Sentencing Commission released an analysis of federal compassionate release motions filed during the pandemic. The data release was a first step toward transparency, but came too late for thousands of medically vulnerable incarcerated people.
As we continue to survey the vaccine rollout in prison systems across the country, we have identified several key takeaways that raise cause for concern.
Through our Data Reporting & Quality Scorecards, we’ve noted the chronic lack of transparency and generally poor data reporting from carceral agencies. This problem has only been exacerbated as agencies have refused to report the nuances of vaccine administration.
Since March, we’ve been assigning scores to carceral agencies based on the granularity of the COVID-19 variables they report, as well as the quality of those data. This month, as with the two previous scoring rounds, more than 80% of agencies received an F.
As the vaccine rollout has picked up, we've updated the transparency scores we're giving each carceral agency. This time, 83% of agencies failed.
April 26th, 2021 • Joshua Manson
A report released last month by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) contains previously unreleased data showing the spread of COVID-19 in the nation’s jails during the early months of the pandemic. We identified several key takeaways.
April 22nd, 2021 • Joshua Manson
A survey of deaths in Florida prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic has found that average life expectancy for incarcerated people dropped four years, more than quadruple the decline for the U.S. population as a whole
In March, we released our Data Reporting & Quality Scorecards assessing the transparency of each of the 53 major state and federal agencies. On April 12th, we reassessed the scores and grades for each agency. In the first round of assessments, 75% of correctional agencies received an F. In this round, 81% of agencies did.
April 15th, 2021 • Joshua Manson
Data Projects Submit Joint Testimony to Congress on the Bureau of Prisons’ Mismanagement of the Pandemic in Federal Prisons
The UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project, the COVID Prison Project, and the COVID, Corrections, and Oversight Project at the University of Texas at Austin submitted joint testimony to Congress outlining failures by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to manage and report on COVID-19 in its facilities.
A new MMWR study finds that distrust of correctional institutions and lack of information are leading causes for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among incarcerated people. Correctional agencies must take crucial steps to inspire confidence in the vaccine and encourage uptake of this life-saving inoculation.
In the last two months, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 variants has been reported in three prison systems. The variants are more contagious and can accelerate viral spread. To avoid a corresponding increase in infections and deaths, corrections officials must adopt a multi-pronged strategy of regular testing, vaccination, and decarceration.
In recent weeks, the BOP has reported a decrease in total COVID-19 cases — an illogical trend for a number that presumably can only increase over time. An agency spokesperson informed us that the drop in reported cases was not, in fact, an error. Rather, it was the outcome of an intentional reporting choice.
In January, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections removed its data dashboard due to “technical challenges.” More than two months later, we’re still missing critical data.
This week, we added a page to our website showing the spread of COVID-19 among people in ICE detention.
March 22nd, 2021 • Joshua Manson
“An Afterthought”: A Few of The Ways That The Prison Law Office Has Renewed Longstanding Battles For Prisoner Rights and Safety During the Pandemic
The Prison Law Office has adapted its longstanding battles against overcrowding, inadequate health care, and other dangerous conditions in jails and prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We created a scorecard to assess 53 state and federal carceral agencies on what COVID-19 data they report and how they report them. 41 agencies — more than 75% — failed.
March 9th, 2021 • Joshua Manson
We've added a table to our home page showing the numbers of incarcerated people and staff in certain state and federal systems who have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
March 3rd, 2021 • Victoria Rossi
Families report that correctional staff have mishandled or neglected their relatives’ personal effects after their deaths, adding pain to already tragic circumstances. During the pandemic, more and more families have become familiar with the especially devastating consequences of losing a loved one behind bars, whether of COVID-19 or of other causes.
February 25th, 2021 • Joshua Manson
A new article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that staff of U.S. prisons are three times as likely to contract COVID-19 as the general U.S. population. The study’s authors cross-referenced data collected by the UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project with publicly available personnel data from state and federal departments of corrections to measure the scale of what they called an “unprecedented occupational hazard” for employees of American prisons.
February 18th, 2021 • Joshua Manson
As COVID-19 vaccines are becoming available to more and more people across the United States, one especially vulnerable population is often left behind: people who are incarcerated.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project has been collecting COVID-19 data from the online dashboards maintained by correctional agencies nationwide. These agencies vary in what and how much data they publicly report. We’ve created visualizations to highlight the gaps in reporting by state and federal correctional agencies as of February 17, 2021.