An Imperfect Storm: Identifying the Root Causes of COVID-19 Outbreaks in the World’s Largest Corrections Systems

James Byrne, Sabrina S. Rapisarda, Don Hummer, Kimberly R. Kras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We review the nature and extent of COVID-19 outbreaks across corrections systems globally, and document the types of front-end, in-prison, and back-end mitigation strategies used to address the COVID-19 problem in the 50 countries with the largest prison systems; these countries house over 90% of the global prison population. For most countries, the reported rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths during the first phase of the pandemic are higher in prisons and jails than in the general community, but similar baseline data on the extent of outbreaks in the community corrections systems of these countries were unavailable. We find that: prison expansion has resulted in prison overcrowding in many large prison systems, making in-prison mitigation strategies harder to implement; large prison systems are characterized by inadequate prison infrastructure and health care services; and the current global prison population includes a significant number of individuals with poor physical and mental health, placing them “at risk” for infection, both in prison and in their home communities. Based on our review of the short-term impact of reforms on inmate and staff health, the size of the prison and jail population, and public safety, we recommend an aggressive three-pronged COVID-19-based corrections research agenda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)862-909
Number of pages48
JournalVictims and Offenders
Volume15
Issue number7-8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Law

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