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 ...