Outside Tampa, Fla., 100 prisoners were freed from a county jail, including a repeat felon and 35-time arrestee classified as a “nonviolent offender,” who allegedly killed a man the day after his release. Similarly, a Denver man allegedly murdered a woman in an alley three weeks after he was paroled early due to coronavirus concerns.
While many American cities are suffering through the crime wave, the most apocalyptic predictions of mass Covid-related deaths behind prison walls haven’t come to pass. In fact, prisoners may actually be safer behind bars.
Advocates for early release point to the infection rate among prisoners, which is three times as high as that of the general population. But that rate is skewed wildly by testing availability. In many states, prisoners are being tested at significantly higher rates than the nonincarcerated population.
In fact, there has been no wave of mass deaths among prisoners. By mid-July, there were approximately 700 recorded deaths due to coronavirus among the 2.2 million prison and jail inmates in the U.S. That’s a mortality rate of roughly 32 deaths per 100,000 prisoners. In the nation as a whole, there were approximately 140,000 Covid-19 fatalities by mid-July. That’s a mortality rate of 42 per 100,000, including inmates. And prisoners who do contract the disease are dying at significantly lower rates (1% mortality) than the overall population (3.8%).