Selection of news and resources on coronavirus in jails and prisons

States deal with highly vulnerable population differently

Justice Policy Institute


There is too much news on coronavirus and how it is affecting the justice system to do a comprehensive capture, so here is a selection of what’s out there.


Robert Barton’s Blog | Tomas Keen in Crime Report | Taylar Speaks


Justice Policy Institute | ACLU-DC | ACLU-DC | Prison Policy Initiative | Sentencing Project | ACLU | ACLU New Jersey | San Francisco Public Defender | RAPP | RAPP Press Conference | RAPP statement on Sing Sing CO’s positive test | Innocence Project on first positive test on Rikers Island


UCLA Database on Prisons and COVID19 | Prison Policy Initiative 5 Ways the Prison System Could Slow the Pandemic | National Tracker Covid-19 Behind Bars | John’s Hopkins Faculty Express Urgent Concern About Covid-19 Spread in Prison | Correctional Facilities In The Shadow Of COVID-19: Unique Challenges And Proposed Solutions | Stop Solitary for Kids COVID-19 Resources | CJJR Resources for Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare | Senator Grassley+ letter to AG Barr | CDC Guidance for Management of COVID-19 in Correctional and Detention Facilities | Letter to Washington, D.C. leadership | PPI State-by-state justice system responses to COVID-19 | Decarcerate DC Petition | BOP COVID19 Tracking


New York Times | April 23, 2020 | No One Deserves to Die of Covid-19 in Jail. But more than 100 inmates already have.

Washington Post | April 10, 2020 | America’s 2.3 million prisoners are sitting ducks for this virus. Here’s how to save them.

Auburn News | April 9, 2020 | Our view: Creative solutions required to stop COVID-19 spread in New York’s prisons

News and Observer | April 8, 2020 | Officials can’t duck COVID-19 nightmare at Butner

The Observer | April 8, 2020 | Editorial: Keep COVID-19 out of our jails, prisons and detention centers

Philadelphia Inquirer | April 2, 2020 | Defuse the ticking time bomb of coronavirus in jails and prisons

Daily Gazette | March 25, 2020 | EDITORIAL: Stop spread of Covid-19 in jails, prisons. Release harmless inmates to ease threat of disease to inmates, corrections officers, staff.

San Antonio Express-News | March 17, 2020 | Editorial: Is the Bexar County jail ready for COVID-19?

Baltimore Sun | March 13, 2020 | Coroavirus’ other vulnerable population: prisoners


CNN | April 20, 2020 | Releasing prisoners during Covid-19 crisis makes good sense

Baltimore Sun | April 8, 2020 | Jail population needs to be reduced to prevent spread of coronavirus

Chronicle of Social Change | April 8, 2020 | Stop a Coronavirus Disaster: Release Kids from Juvenile Facilities

The Crime Report | April 2, 2020 | After the COVID-19 Release of Prisoners, Who Will Help Them?

USA TODAY | March 27, 2020 | Let’s keep youth justice from making the coronavirus worse. Releasing low-risk, incarcerated youth is not just smart for curbing the pandemic, it will improve the system.


The Hill | March 26, 2020 | COVID-19 gives us an urgent argument for compassionate release

Baltimore Sun | March 17, 2020 | To limit coronavirus spread, reduce jail and prison population

New York Times | March 16, 2020 | An Epicenter of the Pandemic Will Be Jails and Prisons, if Inaction Continues: The conditions inside, which are inhumane, are now a threat to any American with a jail in their county — that’s everyone.

New York Times | March 13, 2020 | Our Courts and Jails Are Putting Lives at Risk: Across the country, it’s mostly business as usual in the justice system. And that’s inviting the spread of the coronavirus.

Washington Post |March 17, 2020 | We must release prisoners to lessen the spread of coronavirus

New York Daily News | March 18, 2020 | With coronavirus running wild, it’s the exact wrong time to pack more people in jails and prisons

FOX News | March 18, 2020 | Tolman and Harris: Coronavirus crisis requires this action be taken for elderly prison inmates

NATIONAL NEWS (state-by-state below the photo):

ABC News | April 4, 2020 | No COVID-19 tests available for prisoners at center of New York outbreak, court documents show

NPR | April 6, 2020 | Inmates, Staff On Edge As COVID-19 Spreads Through Federal Prisons

New York Times | March 30, 2020 | Prisoners ‘Terrified’ as Coronavirus Spreads Behind Bars: Some jails are releasing people as the virus gains a foothold inside, but critics say it is not happening quickly enough to save lives and resources.

The Appeal | March 30, 2020 | CORONAVIRUS PROMPTS URGENT CALLS FOR MINORS IN DETENTION TO BE RELEASED: ‘Continuing to maintain these youths in this hotbed of contagion poses an unconscionable and entirely preventable risk of harm,’ one lawsuit states.

AP | March 27, 2020 | Federal prisons struggle to combat growing COVID-19 fears

Washington Post | March 25, 2020 | ‘Disaster waiting to happen’: Thousands of inmates released as jails and prisons face coronavirus threat

NPR | March 24, 2020 | As COVID-19 Spreads, Calls Grow To Protect Inmates In Federal Prisons

Wired | March 24, 2020 | Covid-19 Poses a Heightened Threat in Jails and Prisons: An outbreak could seriously harm staff, the incarcerated, and the surrounding community. Releasing inmates could help — if they have somewhere to go.


Wall Street Journal | March 22, 2020 | Jails Release Prisoners, Fearing Coronavirus Outbreak: Experts say virus could spread quickly in crowded correctional facilities, which are also banning visitors and restricting inmates’ movements.

Forbes | March 22, 2020 | The COVID-19 Prison Crisis Is About To Become A Community Crisis

Newsy | March 19, 2020 | Advocates Want Older Inmates Released Before Coronavirus Hits Prisons

Washington Post | March 19, 2020 | Prosecutors, defense attorneys press to release inmates, drop charges and thin jail population in response to the coronavirus

CNN | March 18, 2020 | New coronavirus cases in US jails heighten concerns about an unprepared system

BBC | March 18, 2020 | US jails begin releasing prisoners to stem Covid-19 infections

HuffPo | March 16, 2020 | The Only Way To Protect Elderly Prisoners From Coronavirus Is To Release Them

Mother Jones | March 12, 2020 | To Arrest the Spread of Coronavirus, Arrest Fewer People. Experts fear local jails could easily become incubators for the disease.

The Hill | March 18, 2020 | ACLU calls on Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Prisons to release prisoners vulnerable to coronavirus

Marshall Project | March 6, 2020 | When Purell is Contraband, How Do You Contain Coronavirus?

New Yorker | March 14, 2020 | How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus

USA Today | March 17, 2020 | Prisons restrict inmates, staffers’ movements as they try to keep coronavirus out

The Crime Report | March 18, 2020 | Bring Detained Kids, Elderly Inmates Home During Pandemic, Advocates Say

The Crime Report | March 20, 2020 | Juvenile Agency Chiefs Join Calls to Release Jailed Youth

Vox | March 17, 2020 | A coronavirus outbreak in jails or prisons could turn into a nightmare: Experts warn prisons and jails aren’t ready for a pandemic — and that could hurt everyone else too.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


WTVA | April 18, 2020 | Alabama prison system reports COVID-19 death, cases

AL.COM | April 5, 2020 | Alabama prison system’s COVID-19 plan anticipates widespread infection, deaths, National Guard intervention

Montgomery Adviser | March 31, 2020 | Coronavirus: Gov. Kay Ivey urged to expedite Alabama paroles of older inmates amid outbreak


Fox10 | April 8, 2020 | Officials: 2 Arizona prison inmates test positive for COVID-19, receive treatment

LATimes | April 7, 2020 | Coronavirus has led to thousands of early releases from prisons and jails. Not in Arizona

KOLD 13 | March 24, 2020 | Concern spreads over potential COVID-19 outbreak in state prisons


WMC5 | April 7, 2020 | Inmates fear for their safety inside Arkansas prison with COVID-19 outbreak


KPIX5 | April 20, 2020 | Second Inmate At SF Jail Tests Positive For COVID-19, Showed No Symptoms

NBC4LA | April 19, 2020 | California Reports 1st Prison Inmate Death Caused by COVID-19

Santa Barbara Independent | April 18, 2020 | Lompoc Prison, Crawling with COVID-19, Reports First Inmate Death

KRON4 | April 8, 2020 | 11 inmates fall ill with COVID-19 in Alameda County Jail

KCRC | April 6, 2020 | CDCR: 7 inmates tested for COVID-19 at Pelican Bay State Prison, 0 confirmed, so far

KEYT | April 6, 2020 | Health leaders discuss second COVID-19 death, first responders testing positive and prison outbreak

Fox 40 | March 25, 2020 | Third COVID-19 case reported among California State Prison, Sacramento employees

Los Angeles Daily News | March 22, 2020 | State prison inmate in Lancaster, 2 prison employees in Chino test positive for coronavirus

LA Times | March 16, 2020 | L.A. County releasing some inmates from jail to combat coronavirus

LA Times | March 17, 2020 | Coronavirus has authorities putting more police on streets, releasing inmates from jails

The Appeal | March 16, 2020 | To stop coronavirus, places where people gather are shutting down across California. What about its jails? Activists are calling on the governor, district attorneys, sheriffs, and judges to take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Appeal | March 11, 2020 | San Francisco Officials Push to Reduce Jail Population to Prevent Coronavirus Outbreak. The public defender and district attorney both directed their staffs to keep individuals who are more vulnerable to the virus out of jail.


Washington Post | April 19, 2020 | Judge orders emergency D.C. jail overhaul of medical, cleaning, ‘social distancing’ practices and defense lawyer access to stem coronavirus

WAMU | March 25, 2020 | Men In D.C.’s Federal Halfway House Say They Are Stuck Inside Without Essential Supplies

Washington City Paper | March 19, 2020 | DC Jail Inmate Tested for Coronavirus, 67 Quarantined Due to Possible Exposure

Washington Post |March 18, 2020 | U.S. marshal at D.C. Superior Court tests positive

The Appeal | March 18, 2020 | Washington, D.C. Continues Low-level Arrests Amid Pandemic: The Metropolitan Police Department has discussed reducing arrests, but it has not formally announced any changes.

Taylar Speaks Blog | March 16, 2020 | Central Cell Block and Court Lock-Up: A Glimpse into DC Department of Corrections and DC Superior Court’s Failure to Implement CDC COVID-19 Hygiene Protocol for Inmates


Jacksonville Free Press | April 8, 2020 | Black Caucus Urges Florida Governor to Take Extra Precautions for Inmates Amid Covic-19 Concerns | March 24, 2020 | Florida prisoner advocates on edge after Marion employee tests positive for coronavirus

New York Times | March 17, 2020 | ‘We Are Not a Hospital’: A Prison Braces for the Coronavirus: In places where social distancing is impossible and medical care strained, bars won’t stop the infection’s spread.


Atlanta Journal Constitution | April 20, 2020 | Ga. prisons see major spike in COVID-19 cases

Atlanta Journal Constitution | April 20, 2020 | Georgia jails and prison remain crowded as COVID-19 spreads

Atlanta Journal Constitution | April 8, 2020 | Fulton public defenders petition for wider release of jail inmates

Atlanta Journal Constitution | March 24, 2020 | Hall, Fulton counties releasing nonviolent offenders early as virus looms

Atlanta Journal Constitution | March 24, 2020 | Four more Lee State prisoners tested for COVID-19


Bellvue Herald-Leader | March 22, 2020 | Iowa’s prisons will accelerate release of approved inmates to mitigate COVID-19


NPR | April 13, 2020 | The COVID-19 Struggle In Chicago’s Cook County Jail

WBEZ | April 6, 2020 | As COVID-19 Spreads, Advocates Sound Alarm For People In Prisons And The Communities Around Them

Chicago Sun Times | April 5, 2020 | 2nd Stateville prison inmate dies of COVID-19

WGN9 | April 2, 2020 | Suit seeks Illinois inmates’ release due to COVID-19

Chicago Sun Times | March 12, 2020 | Pritzker should release elderly, ailing prisoners from state jails amid coronavirus outbreak, activists say. There are nearly 7,800 incarcerated people in state prisons age 50 or older. Advocates say many, if not most, of them could be safely released to the public.


WAFB9 | April 20, 2020 | Louisiana prison warden dies of COVID-19

Washington Post | April 9, 2020 | Inside the deadliest federal prison, the seeping coronavirus creates fear and danger

KLFY | April 6, 2020 | ACLU sues for release of prisoners at Oakdale Federal Prison for COVID-19 concerns | March 17, 2020 | Arrests in New Orleans continue but jail population drops in face of coronavirus | March 15, 2020 | New Orleans sheriff says he won’t transport inmates to court due to coronavirus threat

The Lens | March 12, 2020 | Public defenders request the release of all non-violent offenders in jail due to coronavirus


Baltimore Sun | April 19, 2020 | With coronavirus spreading, Maryland Gov. Hogan signs order for expedited release of hundreds of prisoners

WJZ13 | April 8, 2020 | Marylanders Worry About Loved Ones Behind Bars Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Baltimore Sun | March 30, 2020 | Maryland prison system confirms first coronavirus cases

Baltimore Sun | March 28, 2020 | 200 Hopkins medical faculty pen letter asking Gov. Hogan to protect inmates from coronavirus

Baltimore Sun | March 23, 2020 | Mosby, medical professionals ramp up calls for Maryland to release elderly and low-risk prisoners to stem coronavirus

Public News Service | March 16, 2020 | Coronavirus in Prisons: Advocates Urge Release of Geriatric Population

Baltimore Sun | March 13, 2020 | Man awaiting trial on Baltimore drug conspiracy charges wants out of prison, citing his health amid COVID concerns

Baltimore Sun | March 13, 2020 | Maryland jails are incubators for the coronavirus and precautions must be taken to avoid an outbreak, experts say

Baltimore Sun | March 18, 2020 | Baltimore State’s Attorney Mosby to stop prosecuting drug possession, prostitution, other crimes amid coronavirus


WGBH | April 2, 2020 | First Massachusetts Inmate Dies From COVID-19

WBUR News | March 21, 2020 | 1st Mass. Prisoner Diagnosed With COVID-19


CNN | April 19, 2020 | Michigan inmate who spent decades in prison dies of Covid-19 just before his release

Buzzfeed | April 16, 2020 | The High COVID-19 Infection Rate At This Michigan Prison Has Inmates Fearing For Their Health

WWMT | April 8, 2020 | Second Michigan prison inmate dies from COVID-19 in Coldwater

The Daily News | April 4, 2020 | Prisoner dies in cell, COVID-19 virus spreads to 200 inmates in Michigan

The Daily News | March 19, 2020 | Changes to jail, prison protocols made in response to COVID-19


Mother Jones | March 20, 2020 | Fearing Coronavirus Inside Prison: “They’re Like ‘Nothing’s Wrong.’ Then Why Do You Guys Have Masks On?”


MCIR | March 23, 2020 | Fear of coronavirus keeping some employees away from already understaffed Parchman prison


New York Times | March 23, 2020 | 1,000 Inmates Will Be Released From N.J. Jails to Curb Coronavirus Risk

National Review | March 23, 2020 | New Jersey to Release Hundreds of Inmates to Slow Coronavirus Spread

Politico | March 23, 2020 | Up to 1,000 inmates in New Jersey ordered released


Guardian | April 17, 2020 | I’m in prison in New York. Many are sick with Covid-19 — and I fear for our safety



Slate | April 2, 2020 | Coronavirus Cases Are Spreading Rapidly on Rikers Island: Soap and space are still in short supply as at least 231 incarcerated people and 223 staff members test positive for COVID-19.

New York Magazine | April 1, 2020 | ‘We’re Going to All Start Dropping’: Rikers Inmates on Life as Prisoners of COVID-19

Washington Post | March 23, 2020 | ‘Trapped on Rikers’: Jails and prisons face coronavirus catastrophe as officials slowly authorize releases

NBC 4 News | March 22, 2020 | 21 Inmates, 17 Employees Test Positive for COVID-19 on Rikers Island: Officials At least 38 inmates and employees have tested positive for COVID-19 on Rikers Island in New York City, officials confirmed over the weekend

NBC News | March 17, 2020 | Employee at Sing Sing prison tests positive for coronavirus, triggering broader fears: “This is going to be absolutely catastrophic inside prisons, particularly with the U.S. having an aging population,” said one advocate.

The Crime Report | March 19, 2020 | NYC Mayor Pressured for COVID-19 Jail Safety Plan

The Intercept | March 18, 2020 | Coronavirus has arrived at Rikers Island: Inside New York City jails, where the pandemic is set to explode

North Carolina:

ABC11 | April 9, 2020 | Civil rights group files lawsuit to stop the spread of COVID-19 in NC prisons

News and Observed | April 5, 2020 | 7 state prison inmates in NC have now tested positive for COVID-19


NPR | April 20, 2020 | 73% Of Inmates At An Ohio Prison Test Positive For Coronavirus

WCPO9 | April 20, 2020 | As COVID-19 testing ramps up, more and more cases discovered in Ohio’s prisons | April 7, 2020 | Coronavirus in Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine plans to release some prison inmates due to COVID-19

ABC6 | April 6, 2020 | More COVID-19 cases confirmed among Ohio prisoners, staff

WKBN27 | April 5, 2020 | Another inmate dies at Elkton prison from COVID-19, staff members test positive

ABC6 | April 5, 2020 | Ohio prisons, inmates dealing with COVID-19 pandemic in close quarters


OPB | March 17, 2020 | Advocates And Sheriffs Worry Prison, Jails Could Be Incubators For COVID-19


CBS21 | April 8, 2020 | Justice advocates want some youth released from detention facilities amid pandemic

Philadelphia Inquirer | March 18, 2020 | With courts closed by pandemic, Philly police stop low-level arrests to manage jail crowding

Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 | March 17, 2020 | Possible release of some Allegheny County Jail inmates under coronavirus judicial emergency: Under sweeping emergency powers granted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Allegheny County’s president judge suspended most criminal court events and all civil trials.


Time | March 25, 2020 | After a South Dakota Jail Confirmed a Coronavirus Case, 8 Inmates Escaped


The State | April 6, 2020 | Inmate at SC jail tests positive for coronavirus, 35 more in isolation, cops say


The Leader | April 20, 2020 | There’s a COVID-19 outbreak at the prison in Mason


Fort Worth Star-Telegram | April 20, 2020 | Sick, elderly and fearing coronavirus: Life inside Fort Worth’s women’s federal prison | April 8, 2020 | 15 Texas prisons units on lockdown as Houston area parole facility sees first COVID-19 case

KWTX10 | March 26, 2020 | Texas prison unit employee tests positive for COVID-19

KDFW4 | March 26, 2020 | Five inmates in Dallas County jail diagnosed with COVID-19

Dallas Morning News | March 18, 2020 | Dallas’ criminal justice community worries about canceled jury trials, jail population: Commissioner John Wiley Price is worried the county jail will quickly become overcrowded


Virginia Mercury | April 21, 2020 | Virginia prison officials struck confident tone as COVID-19 spread. Now cases are soaring.

wvtf radio | March 17, 2020 | Are Virginia Prisons Prepared for COVID-19?

WASHINGTON STATE: | April 9, 2020 | COVID-19 outbreak worsens at Monroe prison

Buzzfeed | March 18, 2020 | Here’s What Happened To Two Prisoners When A Guard Got The Coronavirus: “I cannot help but linger on the faces of the elderly prisoners, some of them who have been like father figures to us younger men, and think about how they are unlikely to survive this.”

Crosscut | March 18, 2020 | Coronavirus has jail lawyers worried about safety — for clients and themselves. Defense attorneys want judges to release more inmates, as a King County guard tests positive for COVID-19.

The Seattle Times | March 13, 2020 | Staffer at Monroe state prison tests positive for coronavirus, DOC says



Justice Policy Institute

Reducing society’s reliance on incarceration and the justice system. We inform policymakers, advocates and the media about fair and effective justice reforms.