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Impact of COVID-19 on State and Federal Prisons, March 2020–February 2021

NCJ Number
304500
Author(s)
E. Ann Carson, Ph.D., BJS Statistician; Melissa Nadel, Ph.D., Abt Associates; and Gerry Gaes, Ph.D., Independent Consultant to Abt Associates
Date Published
August 2022
Description

This report provides details on the effects of COVID-19 on state and federal prisons from March 2020 to February 2021. The report presents data related to COVID-19 tests, infections, deaths, and vaccinations. It also provides statistics on admissions to and releases, including expedited releases, from state and federal prisons during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights
  • BJS’s survey to measure the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. prisons from the end of February 2020 to the end of February 2021 found that the number of persons in the custody of state, federal, or privately operated prisons under state or federal contract decreased more than 16%.
  • The prison population declined by 157,500 persons during the first 6 months of the COVID-19 study period through the end of August 2020, and by 58,300 in the 6 months through the end of February 2021.
  • Twenty-four states released a total of 37,700 persons from prison on an expedited basis (earlier than scheduled) during the COVID-19 study period.
  • State and federal prisons had a crude mortality rate (unadjusted for sex, race or ethnicity, or age) of 1.5 COVID-19-related deaths per 1,000 prisoners from the end of February 2020 to the end of February 2021.
  • From the end of February 2020 to the end of February 2021, a total of 196 correctional staff in state and federal prisons died as a result of COVID-19.

Date Published: August 25, 2022