States Hide Prison COVID-19 Data: Study

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Illustration by EPG1961 via Flickr

According to researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles’ COVID Behind Bars Data Project, which collects and analyzes data on the pandemic in corrections settings, at least a half-dozen states, including Florida and Georgia as well as Texas, provide even less information on COVID-19 cases and deaths in state prisons, local jails and juvenile detention facilities than they once did, reports Pew Stateline.

The project noted that while prison reporting had been “plagued by deep inadequacies” since the start of the pandemic, corrections systems cut back even more on public data in recent months.

Researchers characterize rollback of basic reporting that began in the spring of 2020 as “a deliberate cloaking of the reality on the ground.” States have explained that they stopped providing more detailed reports because of a decline in cases, even though they began making the change before this summer’s surge of the delta variant. States have stopped publishing information on the number of cases, tests performed, deaths and vaccinations, both among inmates and staff.

Some have stopped providing cumulative totals in those categories. Other researchers have found that hardly any prison systems publish demographic information, which would show the age, ethnicity and race of prison populations who have been the most vulnerable.

A report from the COVID, Corrections and Oversight Project at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas shows that few states provide much data publicly. Only a handful of states received grades as high as B for their state prison reporting: California, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

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