The screws are driving the pandemic in prisons

Prisons and jails have hosted some of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S., with some facilities approaching 4,000 cases. In the U.S., which has some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the world, 9 in 100 people have had the virus; in U.S. prisons, the rate is 34 out of 100

Using data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, we discovered the infection rate among correctional officers drove the infection rate among incarcerated individuals. We also found a three-way relationship between the infection rate of officers, incarcerated individuals and the communities around prisons…

Public health experts have encouraged prisons to think about the role of correctional officers in infection spread for years and more recently have warned that correctional officers are a weak link for COVID-19 infections in prisons.

Even though prisons have policies for disease control, many of which include guidelines for correctional officers, prisons are at a disadvantage in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Current prison conditions – including poor ventilation, overcrowding and a lack of space for social distancing and isolation – make respiratory diseases like COVID-19 very difficult to control.

We found the relationship between COVID-19 infections among correctional staff and incarcerated individuals is also shaped by the incidence of COVID-19 in the community surrounding the prison. Because correctional officers move between the prison and the community at the beginning and end of each shift, they can carry COVID-19 between these two spaces.

No surprises here. Just thought we’d point out something some of us know from the front and back of living in America.