AUSTIN, Texas - Texas has had more COVID-19 infections and deaths among incarcerated people and staff than any other state in the country, according to a new report from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.
The report provides groundbreaking data on the impact of COVID-19 in state-operated prisons and county-operated jails. Federal prison facilities and ICE facilities were excluded from the analysis.
The report, titled “COVID and Corrections: A Profile of COVID Deaths in Custody in Texas,” indicates that at least 231 people have died from COVID-19 in Texas prisons and jails, including both incarcerated people and staff.
The report also finds that people in Texas prisons are testing positive for COVID-19 at a rate 490% higher than for the state of Texas as a whole.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on prisons and jails across the country, and especially in Texas,” said Michele Deitch, the study’s lead author and a criminal justice policy expert at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. “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. The information here can be used as a starting place for discussion about potential policy solutions.”
80% of people who died from COVID-19 in county jails in Texas were pretrial and not convicted of a crime, according to the report. The report also revealed that 9 people died from COVID in prison after being approved for parole but before they were released.
Other states that started off with a higher number of COVID-19 prison deaths have been dramatically more successful in reducing deaths than Texas.
Findings also include:
- 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.
- 7 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 2 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.
- 9 people died in prison who were approved for parole but not yet released.