As COVID-19 ravaged its way through the nation’s prison system at least
138,105 people in prison had tested positive for the virus and close to 1,170 incarcerated individuals have died in COVID-related cases as of the week ending October 2, according to a recent report by The Marshall Project in
partnership with The Associated Press.
The Marshall Project has been tracking the numbers from March through September. Their report shows that after a slowdown in June, new cases reached an all-time high in early August—citing the growth coming from prisoners testing positive in Florida, California, and the federal Bureau of Prisons. Arkansas, Hawaii and Oklahoma also made the list.
“Given the huge differences in how many people are being tested in prisons for the virus, the effects of the pandemic have varied widely between different state prison system,” stated the report. “The first reported cases began popping up in Massachusetts and Georgia on March 20.”
Georgia also had the first known COVID-19 death of an incarcerated person. Anthony Cheek 49, died March 26, while being held at Lee State Prison. In August, Hawaii was the last state to report its first confirmed prison case of
COVID-19, according to the report.
Texas leads the total death toll of incarcerated people at 161. Florida is second with 134 prisoner deaths and the federal Bureau of Prisons is
third with 133 deaths. California is sixth on the list with 67 prisoner deaths.
“While we know more about how prisoners are getting sick, another group of people is at risk in these facilities: correctional officers, nurses, chaplains, wardens and other workers,” noted the Marshall Project report. “We know little about how coronavirus is affecting them, though they have the potential to carry it both into facilities and back out to their communities.”
For the week ending October 2, 13 states (Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia) released the number of staff members who tested positive for COVID-19. Most state corrections departments include only the employees who voluntarily report a diagnosis, according to the report.
The Marshall Project recorded 83 publicly reported prison staff deaths, while more than 30,043 tested positive for the virus.
The Marshall Project continues to track and publish weekly data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in prisons. They calculate the rates of infection and deaths per 10,000 prisoners to allow for the easiest comparison among prison systems.