Mortality Rates in US Prisons Soared During Covid-19 Crisis, Study Finds
A recent study published by Science Advances has revealed alarming statistics regarding the mortality rates in US prisons during the height of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020. According to the study, the mortality rates in prisons increased by a shocking 77%, which is over three times the increase seen in the general population.
The study, which analyzed data from record requests and publicly available information from 49 state and federal departments of corrections, emphasized that Covid-19 was the primary driver for the surge in mortality due to natural causes. Moreover, some states also experienced significant increases in deaths due to unnatural causes.
Lead author Naomi Sugie, an associate professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California at Irvine, expressed her concern over the lack of understanding surrounding the toll of Covid-19 in the prison system. She noted that the study highlighted systemic failures within the prison system that increased the risk of illness and limited access to medical care.
The pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions on movement within prisons, such as isolation, visitor prohibitions, and solitary confinement, further exacerbated mental health challenges and violence. The study found that this led to an increased risk of deaths due to unnatural causes.
One particularly concerning finding from the study was that many deaths related to Covid-19 in prisons were not officially coded as Covid-related. This mirrored the general population, where systematic testing was lacking and many Covid-related deaths went unrecognized.
The study, considered the most comprehensive analysis of in-custody deaths during the pandemic, shed light on the dire conditions and potential human rights violations experienced by incarcerated individuals during this time. The authors of the study are calling for better transparency and reporting of mortality in US prisons, as well as stressing the urgent need for improved healthcare and preventive measures within the prison system.
These findings serve as a wake-up call for policymakers and prison authorities to address the shortcomings and failures that led to such a drastic increase in mortality rates in US prisons during the Covid-19 crisis. It is crucial that steps are taken to prioritize the health and well-being of incarcerated individuals and to ensure that their human rights are protected.