Ending Mass Incarceration

Responding to COVID-19

Cases of coronavirus have quickly spread across police precincts, courts, jails, detention centers, prisons, and other places where the work of the criminal justice and immigration systems occur. Actors in these systems have a critical role to play. This is underscored by how vast the footprint of these systems is: almost 10.5 million arrests a year, 2.2 million people in jail and prison at any given time, 50,000 in immigration detention, and another 4.5 million under some form of criminal justice supervision (mostly probation or parole). Many people who have contact with the justice system are at high risk for contracting viruses and other infections, both because many of those who are incarcerated have serious chronic health issues and because the conditions in courts, police and immigration detention, and correction facilities create unique risks for disease transmission. As the number of people infected in the United States grows exponentially, administrators, staff, and government actors need to focus on prevention and containment in the criminal and immigration legal systems.

Related Work

One Year Later, We Still Don’t Know How Many People in ICE Detention Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Despite Vera’s efforts to track what ICE reports on COVID-19 in detention, the agency’s limited reporting remains insufficient for understanding the scope of this crisis and its implications for the treatment of people subject to detention in the future. Critical information—such as the total number of people at risk within facilities, who have bee ...

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  • Noelle Smart
    Noelle Smart
  • Adam Garcia
    Adam Garcia
April 08, 2021
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Vaccine Hesitancy Is Fueling the Pandemic in Jails, Prisons, and Communities

There have been at least 101,785 cases of COVID-19 among prison staff nationwide—who are 3.2 times more likely to contract the virus than the general public—and at least 377,497 cases and 2,400 deaths among incarcerated people. Jails and prisons also represent the 15 largest coronavirus clusters in the country. In California, Connecticut, Iowa, Ma ...

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  • Aaron Stagoff-Belfort
    Aaron Stagoff-Belfort
  • Clinique Chapman
    Clinique Chapman
February 26, 2021
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Vera Institute of Justice Public Comment at the Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 1, 2020

Across America, there are 2.3 million people incarcerated today, and correctional facilities are consistently the site of some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks. Correctional medical facilities are understaffed and under-resourced, resulting in incarcerated people either suffering without adequate care or occupying the limited beds and ventilators at ...

December 02, 2020

Recommendations to the Biden-Harris Coronavirus Task Force on Immediate Steps to Combat COVID-19 Behind Bars

Consistently among the biggest COVID-19 clusters in the United States, correctional facilities are seeing record high surges in coronavirus infections. The crowded and congregate nature of jails, prisons, and detention centers—where 2.3 million people are incarcerated and tens of thousands of staff work each day—pose a unique threat for the infecti ...

December 02, 2020

Series: Covid-19

Policymakers Must Lift the Veil on COVID-19 in Jails and Prisons

We know the problem is bad, but we don’t know the details, particularly surrounding how COVID-19 in correctional facilities is impacting people of color. Currently, no central government reporting and collection agency, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tracks the data on COVID-19 in correctional facilities. Nonprofits a ...

Blog Post
  • Micah Haskell-Hoehl
    Micah Haskell-Hoehl
  • Logan Schmidt
    Logan Schmidt
September 02, 2020
Blog Post