COVID Case Watch December 2, 2020

This graph shows confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 per 1,000 individuals in the prison and general populations in each state as of December 2, 2020. The left side (orange) refers to the prison population and the right side (blue) refers to the general population. 

The rate of COVID in the general population is 41.60 per 1,000 individuals. In the prison population, the rate is 158.50 per 1,000 individuals. This means that, on average, the rate of COVID infections in prison populations remains almost four times the rate of COVID infections in the general population. Hawaii has a prison infection rate that is over 10 times that of the general population. 

Despite the recent surge of COVID cases in the general population in the last two months, in 47 of the 50 US states, the rate of COVID infections among those imprisoned still exceeds the rate of COVID infections among the general population. In the last two weeks, case rates have continued to increase drastically in prisons in multiple states. The largest increase in prison population cases this past two weeks has occurred in Alaska. Two weeks ago, 399 of the state’s 3,985 incarcerated population had tested positive. By this week, 771 had tested positive. Case rates in prisons have also increased drastically in Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. The highest case rate in the state prison systems remains in South Dakota with 2,161 of its incarcerated population (569.58 per 1,000) having tested positive for COVID. 

Importantly, states have varying testing strategies within prisons and for their general population, indicating that these rates likely reflect a falsely low disease incidence with some states’ rates being more accurate than others.