Jails and Prisons Have Reduced Their Populations in the Face of the Pandemic, but Not Enough To Save Lives
Our updated analysis finds that the initial efforts to reduce jail populations have slowed, while the small drops in state prison populations are still too little to save lives.
by Emily Widra and Peter Wagner, Prison Policy Initiative, originally published August 5, 2020
At a time when more new cases of the coronavirus are being reported each day, state and local governments should be redoubling their efforts to reduce the number of people in prisons and jails, where social distancing is impossible and the cycle of people in and out of the facility is constant. But our most recent analysis of data from hundreds of counties across the country shows that efforts to reduce jail populations have actually slowed — and even reversed in some places.
Even as the pandemic has spiked in many parts of the country, 71% of the 668 jails we’ve been tracking saw population increases from May 1st to July 22nd, and 84 jails had more people incarcerated on July 22nd than they did in March. This trend is particularly alarming since we know it’s possible to further reduce these populations: in our previous analysis, we found that local governments initially took swift action ...