COVID Deaths in Texas Prisons Lead Nation

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photo by kevin dooley via Flickr

With at least 231 deaths from COVID-19 in Texas prisons and jails, the state has seen more infections and deaths among incarcerated people and staff than any other in the nation, according to a new report from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

“More people in Texas prisons have contracted COVID than in any other prison system in the United States,” said the report.

Titled “COVID and Corrections: A Profile of COVID Deaths in Custody in Texas,” the report also finds that people in Texas prisons are testing positive for COVID at a rate 490 percent higher than for the state of Texas as a whole.

The prison death curve in Texas “has remained stubbornly high since the start of the pandemic,” according to the report.

The youngest incarcerated person who died from COVID was 28, and the oldest was 85. Both were incarcerated in state prisons.

However, the vast majority are over the age of 55, with only 4 people dying under the age of 45.

“Because of the poorer health of people who are incarcerated, most health experts believe that their physical health more closely resembles that of a person 10 years older in the general population,” according to the study.

About 73 percent of people who died from COVID in prison did not have a life sentence. And 80 percent of people who died in jails from COVID were not convicted of a crime.

Especially striking is that 58 percent of people who died in prisons from
COVID were eligible for parole–and 9 people who died in prisons from COVID
were approved for parole but were not yet released.

“Since Texas has the country’s largest prison system, it is perhaps not surprising that it has the most COVID deaths in absolute terms,” wrote the study authors.

“But even when we account for the size of Texas’ prison system by using rates instead of absolute numbers, Texas fares poorly by comparison.”

The study said that, compared to other jurisdictions with large prison systems, Texas performs “relatively worse” in preventing the spread of COVID infections
and prison deaths.

The study concluded:

While there is much about the virus that we do not yet know, what we do know is that COVID is having a devastating impact on the people who live and work in our state’s prisons and jails. We thus have a moral obligation to put this data to immediate use to better protect incarcerated people and staff in Texas’ correctional facilities.

To read the entire study, click here

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