COVID-19 has impacted mass incarceration in the U.S.

How America’s prisons are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks and safety


Campbell Goter

A picture of a Police Department.

Incarceration in the United States has grown substantially over the years. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2018 10.7 million people in the United States were admitted into prisons and jails, 68% of which were booked on felony charges, meaning they will most likely be there for the long haul. 

With such close proximity to other inmates in jails and such large amounts of adults being incarcerated, prisons and jails are scrambling for ways to stop the spread of the newfound disease COVID-19.

In many cases, states have been forced to shorten non-violent inmates’ sentences and let them out much earlier than expected. In California, roughly 3,500 inmates have had their sentences reduced in order to stop the spread.

According to The Intercept, inmates at the Rikers Island Prison in New York City seem to have it the worst though. The infection rate in the jail is 3.91% compared to New York City’s entire infection rate at 0.5% is a substantial difference. According to The Intercept, some inmates have even been offered $6 an hour to dig mass graves for those that have died from COVID-19 in the city.

With the pandemic taking over the prison system, many people also question the hygiene and conditions that prisoners are forced to live in. Inmates at many jails are not given access to masks and hand sanitizer for fear that these objects may turn into weapons or ways of smuggling within the facilities.

In many facilities, many have to buy soap which can come at a costly expense for some inmates. Without access to the many things that government officials are suggesting the use of, inmates are struggling to maintain good, hygienic practices.

For those inmates who have already tested positive in the system, they are put in solitary confinement and do not come in contact with unauthorized staff members or inmates until their quarantine portion is over.

COVID-19 has shed a light for many American citizens on the unsanitary and inhumane conditions that many inmates will spend years of their lives in. New precautions and steps have been taken by many facilities to maintain the cleanliness that is necessary for the health of all inmates.

For more information about COVID-19 visit The Mav.