Prisons and jails have become breeding grounds for the contagious coronavirus. Prisons around the country have reported both ill inmates, detainees and facility staff.

Coronavirus seems to spread best in close quarters, as evidenced by significant positive test results at prisons around the country. In three Ohio prisons, 2,300 inmates have tested positive. 1,858 of the positive tests were at a single prison in the state.


Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is banned in many prisons and social distancing is almost impossible. Coupled with lax or little sanitation policies, it’s easy to see how the virus spread so quickly. “Jails and prisons are often dirty and have really very little in the way of infection control,” said Homer Venters, former chief medical officer at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex in a Marshall Project blog. “There are lots of people using a small number of bathrooms. Many of the sinks are broken or not in use. You may have access to water, but nothing to wipe your hands off with, or no access to soap.”

Prisons have tried mitigation procedures including canceling visitors, isolating infected inmates and increased disinfectants in cleaning. But, because some people with the virus are asymptomatic, without testing it can be difficult to isolate sick inmates in time.

A prison in Illinois is releasing detainees to help stem the spread. In Cook County Jail in Chicago, 4,200 of 10,000 original detainees remain in custody. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said, “We want to make sure that we’re creating conditions whereby people who don’t need to be there aren’t there and the people who are there have optimal conditions for their health and safety.”

William Brewer Jr., whose son is serving time for robbery in Virginia, told the New York Times, “It’s very concerning as a parent. He’s in there sleeping in an open bay with 60 other people. There’s no way they can isolate and get six feet between each other.”


Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.

Scientists believe that the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, started at an exotic animal market in Wuhan, China. You can help stop the incidence of viruses like these by signing this petition to ban the wildlife trade.

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