by Erika Tyagi and Joshua Manson
UCLA COVID Behind Bars Project, August 12, 2021
In recent weeks, as the Delta variant has surged across the country, the rates of infection among prison workers are on the rise, while their vaccination rates remain dangerously low.
Of course, these trends are not unrelated. It’s now well-established that vaccines are highly effective at controlling the spread of the new variants of COVID-19, providing protection that is particularly critical in congregate settings like jails and prisons—places where maintaining physical distance is often impossible, and just one infection can cause massive outbreaks.
As infection rates climb, prisons are extending—and, in some cases, reimposing—restrictive measures that keep incarcerated people on lockdown for as many as 23 hours per day, without access to programming or in-person visits. This continues even as vaccination rates among incarcerated people are higher than the national average in many states, and much higher than that of prison staff.
It is now becoming increasingly clear that as long as large swaths of prison staff refuse vaccines, incarcerated people will not only remain vulnerable to infection and death, but will continue to be subject to harsh isolation measures because of staff intransigence.
We estimate ...