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Articles by Erika Tyagi

Prison Staff Are Refusing Vaccines. Incarcerated People Are Paying the Price.

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 ...

The States that Lead the Nation in COVID-19 Cases Are Hiding Their Prison Data

by Sharon Dolovich, Erika Tyagi, and Neal Marquez, UCLA COVID Behind Bars Project, August 20, 2021

When the pandemic hit, prison systems around the country started posting COVID-19 data for their facilities. This measure of transparency marked a striking departure from business as usual for American prisons, which typically operate behind a thick veil of secrecy, regardless of the public health import of what happens inside.

As we have reported over the past year, this data has been plagued by deep inadequacies. But the fact that it has been published at all seemed to indicate an unusual recognition on the part of correctional officials that the old impulse to obscure and conceal would no longer be acceptable—at least during the present crisis.

Yet now, as the Delta variant breaks hospitalization records in states across the country and vaccination rates among prison staff remain unconscionably low, some prison administrators appear to have decided that the toll COVID-19 is taking in their facilities, and the scale of continued outbreaks, is no longer information that the public needs to know. Despite growing case numbers in communities across the country, a number of carceral agencies had begun to roll back basic data reporting on ...