Read the Article “Prison Population Reductions and COVID-19”

January 16, 2022
Noel Vest, Oshea Johnson, Kathryn Nowotny & Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein

People in prison are particularly vulnerable to infectious disease due to close living conditions and the lack of protective equipment. As a result, public health professionals and prison administrators seek information to guide best practices and policy recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using latent profile analysis, we sought to characterize Texas prisons on levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths among incarcerated residents, and COVID-19 cases among prison staff. This observational study was a secondary data analysis of publicly available data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TBDJ) collected from March 1, 2020, until July 24, 2020. This project was completed in collaboration with the COVID Prison Project. We identified relevant profiles from the data: a low-outbreak profile, a high-outbreak profile, and a high-death profile. Additionally, current prison population and level of employee staffing predicted membership in the high-outbreak and high-death profiles when compared with the low-outbreak profile. Housing persons at 85% of prison capacity was associated with lower risk of COVID-19 infection and death. Implementing this 85% standard as an absolute minimum should be prioritized at prisons across the USA.