One in five state and federal inmates in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, which is four times higher than the general population. In some states, more than half of the prisoners have been infected, according to data compiled by the Associated Press and the Marshall Project.
As the epidemic entered its tenth month – and as the first Americans began receiving the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine – at least 275,000 inmates had been infected, more than 1,700 had died, and the spread of the virus behind bars showed no sign of slowing. New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far surpassing previous peaks in April and August.
“This number is much lower than the number,” said Homer Winters, the former chief medical officer at the Rikers Island prison complex in New York.
Venters have conducted more than a dozen court-ordered COVID-19 prison inspections across the country. “I still have prisons and prisons where, when people are sick, they are not only tested but not receiving care. So they get sick more than they should.
Now the introduction of vaccines raises difficult decisions for politicians and policymakers. With the virus spreading largely unchecked behind bars, prisoners are unable to socialize and rely on the state for their safety and well-being.