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COVID-19 Spurs 25% Drop in Inmates Held in Local Jails

Number of inmates confined in local jails from June 2019 to June 2020

Special Report: Impact of COVID-19 on the Local Jail Population, January-June 2020

Note: Data are last weekday in June 2019 and the last weekday for each month from January to June 2020. In full report, see table 1 for counts and appendix table 1 for standard errors.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of Jails, 2019; and Annual Survey of Jails, 2020

  • From March to June 2020, about 208,500 inmates received expedited release in response to COVID-19.

  • During the pandemic, jail facilities became less crowded, as indicated by the decrease in occupied bed space from 81% at midyear 2019 to 60% at midyear 2020.

  • The number of inmates held for a misdemeanor declined about 45% since midyear 2019, outpacing the decline in the number of inmates held for a felony (down 18%).

  • The percentage of inmates held for a felony increased from 70% at midyear 2019 to 77% at midyear 2020.

  • From March to June 2020, jails conducted 215,360 inmate COVID-19 tests. More than 11% of these tests were positive.


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