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A State-by-State Look at Coronavirus in Prisons

The Marshall Project is collecting data on COVID-19 infections in state and federal prisons. See how the virus has affected correctional facilities where you live.

Coronavirus Updated 4:38 P.M. 07.10.2020

Since March, The Marshall Project has been tracking how many people are being sickened and killed by COVID-19 in prisons and how widely it has spread across the country and within each state. Here, we will regularly update these figures counting the number of people infected and killed nationwide and in each prison system until the crisis abates.

This reporting was undertaken in partnership with The Associated Press.

Cases

By July 7, at least 57,019 people in prison had tested positive for the illness, a 9 percent increase from the week before.

In June, new cases began to dip, growing less rapidly than they had in the spring, when states like Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas began mass testing of prisoners. Those initiatives suggested that coronavirus had been circulating among people without symptoms in much greater numbers than previously known. But by the end of the month, new outbreaks spreading through prisons in California, Texas and Arkansas began to drive the figures up again.

There have been at least 57,019 cases of coronavirus reported among prisoners.

34,245 prisoners have recovered.

Each represents 10 new cases

State Total cases Per 10,000 prisoners New cases over time
Alabama 97 46
Alaska 2 4
Arizona 481 115
Arkansas 2,981 1,640
California 5,372 453
Colorado 631 362
Connecticut 1,346 1,102
Delaware 261 564
Florida 2,514 274
Georgia 944 173
Hawaii 0 0
Idaho 131 171
Illinois 337 91
Indiana 726 270
Iowa 96 114
Kansas 910 920
Kentucky 528 448
Louisiana 641 203
Maine 4 20
Maryland 620 330
Massachusetts 391 478
Michigan 4,020 1,067
Minnesota 341 395
Mississippi 80 43
Missouri 193 74
Montana 3 8
Nebraska 8 14
Nevada 16 13
New Hampshire 1 4
New Jersey 2,869 1,586
New Mexico 461 700
New York 541 126
North Carolina 887 263
North Dakota 7 56
Ohio 5,055 1,037
Oklahoma 9 4
Oregon 183 127
Pennsylvania 285 65
Rhode Island 18 79
South Carolina 346 195
South Dakota 4 11
Tennessee 3,184 1,505
Texas 9,592 685
Utah 30 49
Vermont 47 334
Virginia 1,516 531
Washington 255 150
West Virginia 133 258
Wisconsin 283 125
Wyoming 0 0
Federal 7,639 443
Source: State and federal prison agencies
Deaths

The first known COVID-19 death of a prisoner was in Georgia when Anthony Cheek died on March 26. Cheek, who was 49 years old, had been held in Lee State Prison near Albany, a hotspot for the disease. Since then, at least 650 other prisoners have died of coronavirus-related causes. By July 7, the total number of deaths had risen by 6 percent in a week.

There have been at least 651 deaths from coronavirus reported among prisoners.

Each represents one new death

State Total deaths Per 10,000 prisoners New deaths over time
Alabama 10 5
Alaska 0 0
Arizona 13 3
Arkansas 14 8
California 29 2
Colorado 3 2
Connecticut 7 6
Delaware 7 15
Florida 26 3
Georgia 23 4
Hawaii 0 0
Idaho 0 0
Illinois 13 4
Indiana 20 7
Iowa 1 1
Kansas 4 4
Kentucky 2 2
Louisiana 16 5
Maine 0 0
Maryland 8 4
Massachusetts 8 10
Michigan 68 18
Minnesota 2 2
Mississippi 1 0.5
Missouri 1 0.4
Montana 0 0
Nebraska 0 0
Nevada 0 0
New Hampshire 0 0
New Jersey 46 25
New Mexico 3 5
New York 16 4
North Carolina 5 1
North Dakota 0 0
Ohio 86 18
Oklahoma 0 0
Oregon 1 0.7
Pennsylvania 10 2
Rhode Island 0 0
South Carolina 5 3
South Dakota 0 0
Tennessee 4 2
Texas 88 6
Utah 0 0
Vermont 0 0
Virginia 11 4
Washington 2 1
West Virginia 0 0
Wisconsin 0 0
Wyoming 0 0
Federal 98 6
Source: State and federal prison agencies
What's happening in your state

Given the huge differences in how many people are being tested in prisons for the virus, the effects of the pandemic have varied widely between different state prison systems. The first reported cases began popping up in Massachusetts and Georgia on March 20. By early July, only two states, Wyoming and Hawaii, still had not identified any confirmed cases of sick prisoners. Here, you can choose to view the data for any state prison system and see how the numbers compare. For a summary of the number of cases in facilities run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, choose the “Federal” option.

Each represents

Each represents one new death

Known cases per 10,000 prisoners
Current case data not available
Deaths per 10,000 prisoners
Current death data not available
Tests administered per 10,000 prisoners
Current testing data not available
Source: State and federal prison agencies, The COVID Tracking Project
Prison staff

While we know more about how prisoners are getting sick, another group of people is at risk in these facilities: correctional officers, nurses, chaplains, wardens and other workers. We know little about how coronavirus is affecting them, though they have the potential to carry it both into facilities and back out to their communities. It’s difficult to assess how prison workers are being affected because many aren’t being systematically tested.

In the most recent week, 18 states—Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming—released information on the number of their staff members tested for coronavirus. Where we do know about positive cases, most state corrections departments stress that the count includes only the employees who voluntarily report a diagnosis, often in the course of calling out sick.

While more than 12,481 prison staff members have tested positive, only 46 deaths have been publicly reported.

There have been at least 12,481 cases of coronavirus reported among prison staff.

8,613 staff have recovered.

Each represents 10 new cases

There have been at least 46 deaths from coronavirus reported among prison staff.

Each represents one new death

The staff members in your state

We know very little about how many staff are tested, and in many states it’s not clear how many people are working in prisons right now. What we do know is that in several states prison employees began to get sick before the people they oversee. Using this tool, you can view the data for any state’s prison system and see how the numbers compare. For a summary of the number of cases in facilities administered by the federal Bureau of Prisons, choose the “Federal” option.

Each represents

Each represents one new death

Known cases per 10,000 staff
Current case data not available
Deaths per 10,000 staff
Current death data not available
Tests administered per 10,000 staff
Current testing data not available
Source: State and federal prison agencies, The COVID Tracking Project

The Marshall Project will continue to track and publish data on coronavirus in our prison systems. If you have updates to the data to share or other comments, please contact us at info+covidtracker@themarshallproject.org.

We are publishing the raw data we have collected at data.world, in partnership with the Associated Press, and on Github. You can download the data to examine for yourself or to use in your research. If you do use our data, please let us know.

Methodology

Since March 26, reporters from The Marshall Project have been collecting data on COVID-19 tests administered to people incarcerated in all state and federal prisons, as well as the staff in those facilities. We request this data every week from state departments of corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisons; however, not all departments provide data for the date requested. These numbers have been grouped by the week the data was collected.

To estimate the rate of infection among prisoners, we collected population data for each prison system before the pandemic, roughly in mid-March, and in mid-April. Most prison systems could provide data for the first two weeks of each month. In cases where current data was unavailable, we used the most recent available population numbers from the agencies in 11 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio. In one case, Montana, we used data collected by the Vera Institute for Justice in its “People in Prison in 2019” report.

To estimate the rate of infection among prison employees, we collected staffing numbers for each system before the pandemic, roughly in mid-March, and in mid-April. Where current data was not publicly available, we acquired other numbers through our reporting, including calling agencies or from state budget documents. In six states, we were unable to find recent staffing figures and thus did not calculate rates: Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Utah.

The overall U.S. rate of infection was calculated using case counts from The COVID Tracking Project and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

As with all COVID-19 data, our understanding of the spread and impact of the virus is limited by the availability of testing. Epidemiology and public health experts say that aside from a few states that have recently begun aggressively testing in prisons, it is likely that there are more cases of COVID-19 circulating undetected in facilities. Sixteen prison systems, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, would not release information about how many prisoners they are testing.

Early weeks of data for Vermont included multiple tests of the same prisoner. Starting on May 13, the data now accurately reflect the number of individual prisoners tested in Vermont.

In Texas, updates to the data overcounted the number of employee tests for the weeks of May 13, May 20 and May 27 after the state redesigned its website and how it classified tests for employees. These figures have been amended.

Beginning the week of June 2, we moved our data collection up by one day. Data for that week represents a six-day count of cases between May 28 and June 2.

Reporting by Katie Park and Tom Meagher

Graphics by Gabe Isman and Katie Park

Additional reporting by Cary Aspinwall, Keri Blakinger, Jake Bleiberg, Andrew R. Calderón, Maurice Chammah, Andrew DeMillo, Eli Hager, Jamiles Lartey, Claudia Lauer, Nicole Lewis, Weihua Li, Humera Lodhi, Colleen Long, Joseph Neff, Alysia Santo, Beth Schwartzapfel, Damini Sharma, Colleen Slevin, Christie Thompson, Abbie VanSickle, Adria Watson, Andrew Welsh-Huggins.