New report reveals the devastating toll of COVID-19 in Texas prisons and jails | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

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, 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. Among noteworthy findings, the report also finds that people in Texas prisons are testing positive for COVID at a rate 490% higher than for the state of Texas as a whole. The report further reveals that nine people died from COVID in prison after being approved for parole but before they were released.


"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." —Michele Deitch, LBJ School

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.

"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."

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 10 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.
  • Seven 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 two years remaining on their sentence.
  • 58% of the people who died from COVID in Texas prisons were eligible for parole at the time of their death.
  • Nine people died in prison who were approved for parole but not yet released

More details (download charts):

This report was produced as part of the COVID, Corrections, and Oversight Project at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, with support from Arnold Ventures. The COVID, Corrections, and Oversight Project is led by Michele Deitch, Project Director, and Alycia Welch, Associate Director. They co-authored the report with William Bucknall and Destiny Moreno, LBJ School graduate students, in conjunction with a class on Advanced Research in Criminal Justice. Deitch is a Distinguished Senior Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin with a joint appointment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Texas Law.

View the report: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/83635

 


Media Contact:

Victoria Yu, LBJ School of Public Affairs
(737) 484-2636