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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 5:25 P.M. 04.16.2021

Since March 2020, The Marshall Project has been tracking how many people are being sickened and killed by COVID-19 in prisons across the country and within each state. Here, we regularly update the numbers of people infected and killed both nationwide and within each prison system until the crisis abates.

This reporting was undertaken in partnership with The Associated Press.

Cases

By April 13, at least 394,994 people in prison had tested positive for the illness, an increase of less than 1 percent from the week before.

The cumulative total of known coronavirus cases in U.S. prisons rose considerably from our last reported number because Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections reported several months of revised numbers after a hiatus. Still, our understanding of the full toll of the pandemic on incarcerated people is limited by the Federal Bureau of Prisons policy of removing cases and deaths from its reports in recent months. As a result, we cannot accurately determine new cases or deaths in federal prisons, which have had more people infected than any other system.

Reported cases first peaked in April of 2020, when states such as Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee began mass testing of prisoners. Those initiatives suggested that the coronavirus had been circulating among people without symptoms in much greater numbers than previously known.

There have been at least 394,994 cases of coronavirus reported among prisoners.

313,823 prisoners have recovered.

State Total cases Per 10,000 prisoners New cases over time
Alabama 1,635 774
Alaska * 2,399 5,023
Arizona 12,263 2,895
Arkansas 11,245 6,425
California 49,215 4,184
Colorado 8,827 5,020
Connecticut * 4,399 3,579
Delaware * 2,030 4,026
Florida 18,048 1,925
Georgia 3,797 690
Hawaii * 1,968 4,069
Idaho 4,127 5,280
Illinois 10,864 2,942
Indiana 3,522 1,308
Iowa 4,849 5,683
Kansas 6,101 6,223
Kentucky 7,901 6,496
Louisiana 3,204 2,127
Maine 170 795
Maryland 4,381 2,157
Massachusetts 3,021 3,791
Michigan 26,202 6,863
Minnesota 4,142 4,652
Mississippi 1,398 791
Missouri 5,649 2,195
Montana 1,135 2,518
Nebraska 982 1,747
Nevada 4,537 3,664
New Hampshire 458 1,882
New Jersey 4,684 2,540
New Mexico 2,976 4,517
New York 6,462 1,510
North Carolina 10,021 2,925
North Dakota 633 4,167
Ohio 9,713 1,985
Oklahoma 7,402 2,966
Oregon 3,580 2,476
Pennsylvania 11,215 2,409
Rhode Island * 1,208 4,518
South Carolina 3,246 1,792
South Dakota 2,348 6,344
Tennessee 6,647 3,075
Texas 34,504 2,462
Utah 3,453 5,004
Vermont * 459 2,772
Virginia 9,039 3,100
Washington 6,203 3,593
West Virginia 1,597 2,683
Wisconsin 10,932 4,634
Wyoming 879 3,938
Federal 49,324 2,866
* An asterisk denotes state counts that include both pre-trial detainees and sentenced prisoners under a unified system of jails and prisons.

Source: The Marshall Project and Associated Press weekly data collection from state and federal prison agencies. Download our data.
Deaths

The first known COVID-19 death of a prisoner was in Georgia when Anthony Cheek died on March 26, 2020. Cheek, who was 49 years old, had been held in Lee State Prison near Albany, a hot spot for the disease. Since then, at least 2,563 other prisoners have died of coronavirus-related causes. The week of April 13, the number of deaths reported rose less than 1 percent from the previous week. COVID-19 has killed prisoners in most systems. Only one state — Vermont — has yet to report the death of a prisoner attributed to COVID-19.

There have been at least 2,564 deaths from coronavirus reported among prisoners.

State Total deaths Per 10,000 prisoners New deaths over time
Alabama 65 31
Alaska * 5 10
Arizona 53 13
Arkansas 52 30
California 220 19
Colorado 29 16
Connecticut * 19 15
Delaware * 13 26
Florida 215 23
Georgia 93 17
Hawaii * 9 19
Idaho 6 8
Illinois 88 24
Indiana 51 19
Iowa 19 22
Kansas 16 16
Kentucky 48 39
Louisiana 36 24
Maine 1 5
Maryland 26 13
Massachusetts 21 26
Michigan 142 37
Minnesota 12 13
Mississippi 23 13
Missouri 48 19
Montana 6 13
Nebraska 6 11
Nevada 53 43
New Hampshire 3 12
New Jersey 53 29
New Mexico 28 43
New York 35 8
North Carolina 53 15
North Dakota 1 7
Ohio 135 28
Oklahoma 56 22
Oregon 42 29
Pennsylvania 135 29
Rhode Island * 2 7
South Carolina 40 22
South Dakota 7 19
Tennessee 42 19
Texas 187 13
Utah 16 23
Vermont * 0
Virginia 56 19
Washington 14 8
West Virginia 12 20
Wisconsin 26 11
Wyoming 3 13
Federal 243 14
* An asterisk denotes state counts that include both pre-trial detainees and sentenced prisoners under a unified system of jails and prisons.

Source: The Marshall Project and Associated Press weekly data collection from state and federal prison agencies. Download our data.
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, 2020. At the end of 2020, Rhode Island began offering the COVID-19 vaccine to its prisoners, and 38 other states have followed suit. By the week of April 13, nearly one-quarter of prisoners nationwide had received at least one dose of the vaccine. 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.

Known cases prisoners has tested positive
Current case data not available
Deaths prisoners has died
Current death data not available
Tests tests were administered in the past week
Current test data not available
Vaccines prisoners has been fully vaccinated
Current vaccine data not available

Testing data represents the number of tests administered, not the number of individuals who have been tested. Some states do not report tests until results have returned, which may create a delay in test counts.

Sources: The Marshall Project and Associated Press weekly data collection from state and federal prison agencies, Johns Hopkins University CSSE COVID-19 Data. Download our data.
Prison staff

While we know more about how prisoners are getting sick, another group of people is also at risk in these facilities: correctional officers, nurses, chaplains, wardens and other workers. We know little about how the 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, 12 states — Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia — released information on the number of their staff members tested for the 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.

Since the start of the pandemic, 109,587 prison staff members have tested positive — with new cases at an all-time high the week of Dec. 22. Testing information for staff remains spotty in most states. Prisons have publicly reported 199 deaths among staff. The number of new staff cases for the week of April 13 is largely made up of cases from Pennsylvania, which began to publish numbers after stopping for several months, leading to the appearance of a larger increase.

There have been at least 109,587 cases of coronavirus reported among prison staff.

86,262 staff have recovered.

There have been at least 199 deaths from coronavirus reported among prison staff.

In early 2021, the y-axis label was off by an order of 10. The top line of the chart is 6,000, not 60,000, and has been updated.

Source: The Marshall Project and Associated Press weekly data collection from state and federal prison agencies. Download our data.
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 did. 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.

Known cases per 10,000 staff
Current case data not available
Deaths per 10,000 staff
Current death data not available
Sources: The Marshall Project and Associated Press weekly data collection from state and federal prison agencies. Download our data.

The Marshall Project will continue to track and publish data on the 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, 2020, reporters from The Marshall Project and The Associated Press 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.

For six states with unified prison and jail systems — Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Vermont — we count testing and case numbers from both detainees awaiting trial and sentenced prisoners. Similarly, in Maryland, several pretrial facilities in Baltimore City are included in the figures.

To estimate the rate of infection among prisoners, we collected population data for each prison system before the pandemic, roughly in mid-March of 2020, and then in April and June and each month since then. Beginning the week of July 28, 2020, we updated all prisoner population numbers, reflecting the number of incarcerated adults in state or federal prisons. Before that, population figures may have included additional populations, such as prisoners housed in other facilities, which were not captured in our COVID-19 data. In states with unified prison and jail systems, we include both detainees awaiting trial and sentenced prisoners.

We calculate the rates of infection and death to allow for the easiest comparison across prison systems. Because population snapshots do not account for movement in and out of prisons since March 2020, and because many systems have significantly slowed the number of new people being sent to prison, it’s difficult to estimate the total number of people who have been held since March 2020. To be conservative, we calculate our rates of infection using the largest prisoner population snapshots we had during this period.

Infection rates for the general population are calculated using case counts from the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Before March 11, 2021, we used general population case numbers from the now-shuttered COVID Tracking Project.

Corrections departments in Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin report COVID-19 testing and case data for juvenile facilities; West Virginia reports figures for juvenile facilities and jails. For consistency of comparison with other state prison systems, we removed those facilities from our data that were included before July 28, 2020. Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 data included testing and cases for those who had been released on parole. We removed these tests and cases for prisoners before July 28, 2020 from the data. The staff cases remain. Until early November, West Virginia’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not disaggregate its staff numbers by type of facility. After they began providing itemized numbers on staff cases on Nov. 3, we only included staff numbers from prisons and work release sites. We have gone back to past weeks and estimated the staff breakdown based on the total number of staff in each sector.

In Delaware, the number of prisoner deaths reported for Oct. 27, 2020 was incorrect and should have been 11, not 17. It has been updated here.

Early weeks of data for Vermont included multiple tests of the same prisoner. Starting on May 13, 2020, the data now accurately reflects 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, 2020, after the state redesigned its website and how it classified tests for employees. These figures have been amended.

In Georgia, the prisoner cases and recoveries inadvertently counted some cases in private prisons and county facilities twice, for most weeks before Sept. 15, 2020. These figures have been corrected throughout the data.

Beginning the week of June 2, 2020, 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, 2020.

For the week of July 14, 2020, Michigan undertook an audit of cases and found duplicates that needed to be removed from its unique numbers. As a result, the number of cases dropped by 5 percent from the previous week. To estimate case counts for previous weeks, we have adjusted the original figures by that percentage. As an additional result of the audit, the prisoner test numbers fell by 717.

Starting with the week of July 21, 2020, South Carolina’s Department of Corrections began to report cases — but not testing counts — for prisoners held in “other locations,” such as county jails and hospitals.

The number of staff deaths in Maine for the week of July 21, 2020 was wrong. It should have been 0 and has been corrected.

In the week of Aug. 4, 2020, the Federal Bureau of Prisons began to report four deaths of people who had been released to home confinement, under the supervision of halfway houses. Their testing and case totals, however, do not include people on home confinement, and testing figures do not include private prisons.

In mid-August 2020, Pennsylvania began reporting cases for prisoners and staff in community correction facilities. We have included these cases starting with numbers as of Aug. 18, 2020, and have updated inmate population figures to add individuals held in community corrections facilities. The number of individuals recovered among both staff and prisoners doesn't count individuals in community corrections facilities.

The total number of prisoner cases we reported dropped between Aug. 27 and Aug. 28, 2020, when we incorporated a data update from New Jersey that removed about 4 percent of cases in earlier weeks. New Jersey updated its prisoner case totals to remove cases where a prisoner tested negative for COVID-19 after initially testing positive. To estimate case counts for previous weeks, we have adjusted the original figures by that percentage.

The number of staff cases we initially reported for Sept. 22 and Sept. 29, 2020, in Massachusetts incorrectly counted 100 additional cases in the state. Thus, this also showed too many staff cases nationally. We have updated the figures and charts with the accurate total for both of those weeks.

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, Michelle Pitcher, Alysia Santo, Beth Schwartzapfel, Damini Sharma, Colleen Slevin, Christie Thompson, Abbie VanSickle, Adria Watson, Andrew Welsh-Huggins.