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New UT report reveals the devastating toll of COVID-19 in Texas prisons and jails

Texas has had more COVID-19 infections and deaths among incarcerated people and staff than any other state in the country, the report says.

AUSTIN, Texas — As COVID-19 cases rise in Central Texas a new report reveals the devastating toll the virus has had on prisons and jails in Texas. 

According to the report from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, 231 people have died from COVID-19 in Texas prisons and jails. That's more than any other state in the country. 

The report also finds that people in Texas prisons are testing positive for COVID at a rate 490% higher than for the state of Texas as a whole. 

“The data in this report fills a significant gap in our knowledge base and shows the urgency of taking steps to reduce the risks of additional COVID deaths in Texas prisons and jails," said Michele Deitch, the study’s lead author and a criminal justice policy expert at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. 


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Below is more on the findings outlined in the report:

  • Texas has the largest overall number of infections and deaths in prison. Even when researchers adjust for size, Texas still has the second-highest rate of COVID infections and is tied for the third-highest proportion of its prison population that has died from COVID, among the ten largest prison systems.
  • Texas has had significantly more staff deaths from COVID than any other prison system.
  • 80% of people who died from COVID-19 in county jails in Texas were pretrial and not convicted of a crime.
  • Other states that started off with a higher number of COVID-19 prison deaths have been dramatically more successful in reducing deaths than Texas.
  • Seven Texas prisons (out of a total of 106) account for over half of the COVID-19 deaths in prison in Texas.
  • In one Texas prison facility — the Duncan Unit — almost 6% of the incarcerated population has died.
  • Over 80% of people who died from COVID in Texas prisons were over age 55.
  • 21 people died in prison with less than two years remaining on their sentences.
  • 58% of the people who died from COVID in Texas prisons were eligible for parole at the time of their death.
  • Nine people died in prison who were approved for parole but not yet released.

You can read the full report titled “COVID and Corrections: A Profile of COVID Deaths in Custody in Texas,” here

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