80% of people who died from COVID in Texas jails had never been convicted

A harrowing new report from the UT Austin has examined the impact of COVID-19 on prisons and jails. Texas correctional facilities lead the country in COVID infections, with more than 23,000 cases and at least 230 deaths, including 27 staff members, 14 people held in jails, and 190 held in prisons.

Of the 190 incarcerated people who died, 21 of them had served 90% of their sentences. 110 of them were eligible for parole. And 9 of them were approved for parole, but had not yet been released. Of the 14 people held in jails, 11 of them were still awaiting trial, and had not yet been convicted of any crimes.

A few more important details, courtesy of Vox:

This report only looked at state-operated prisons and county-operated jails, as researchers were focused on how Texas's Covid-19 prison policies had fared.

The 231 figure is likely to be a conservative count. As the researchers note, TDCJ and county jails update death reports after autopsies are conducted, sometimes months after the fact. Additionally, many people have "died without ever having been tested for COVID," and others died due to a preexisting conditioned worsened by the virus and are not counted in this figure.

COVID-19 deaths account for 93% of all deaths among people in custody. According to the UT Austin research, the infection rates in jails and prisons are 490% higher than the state of Texas as a whole; 40% higher than the national prison population average; and 620% higher than the national average.

It's not just Texas though. California, Ohio and Florida are also among the highest infection rates, according to NPR, with 17,000 cases in California alone.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota:

Inmates at nine of the state's 11 prisons have now tested positive for the virus.

In September, there were only a handful of positive tests at the Stillwater facility. The number quickly skyrocketed during October, surpassing 900. A total of 916 inmates have now tested positive there out of a total of 1,238.

There are 136 active cases there now, according to a DOC spokesperson.

On Oct. 30, the St. Cloud Correctional Facility also went on a modified lockdown. By mid-August, more than 160 inmates had tested positive there, which grew to 178 by mid-October. 

By early November, the number skyrocketed to 504 cases among the 623 total inmates at the prison. There are still 335 active cases there right now.

And in West Virginia:

There are 107 active cases of the coronavirus among inmates at a federal correctional institution in West Virginia.

Gilmer County Health Department announced the numbers on Wednesday. The county of about 8,500 in central West Virginia has two other active cases.

The federal facility has nearly 1,300 inmates.

The Pennsylvania correctional system has seen a 97% increase in cases over just the last month. But prior to that:

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections saw relatively low infection and death rates compared with other states between March and the end of September, with 427 cases, according to data gathered by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press. But since Oct. 1, total infections have nearly doubled to 841.

Kentucky currently has 367 active cases spread between the state's 14 correctional facilities. Earlier this year, they released 1200 people to help reduce prison crowding.

And in St. Louis, one prison has seen more than 130 cases since the beginning of November alone.

COVID and Corrections: a Profile of COVID Deaths in Custody in Texas [UT Austin]

80 percent of those who died of Covid-19 in Texas county jails were never convicted of a crime [Jerusalem Demsas / Vox]

Pandemic's Deadly Toll Behind Bars Spurs Calls For Change In U.S. Jails And Prisons [Eric Westervelt / NPR]

DOC commissioner responds to family members' concerns about COVID spread in prisons [Callan Gray / KSTP Eyewitness News Minneapolis]

Over 100 active virus cases at West Virginia federal prison [Associated Press]

With COVID cases rising, Pennsylvania lawmakers call for release of terminally ill inmates [Joseph Darius Jaafari / The Morning Call]

Family fears for inmates as COVID-19 cases in Kentucky prisons rise [Sofia Millar/LEX 18]

COVID outbreak infects 131 inmates in St. Louis prison [Eric Baerren / The Morning Sun]

Image: Public Domain via PxHere