COVID-19 and Incarceration: The Effects of a Pandemic on an Unjust System

The Reality of Prisons, Jails, and Detention Centers

Before COVID-19

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Healing to Advocacy Program

  • The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.3 million people behind bars across the country
  • Historically, Black people have disproportionately been the targets of carceral practices and policies
  • Black Americans make up 40% of the incarcerated population, despite representing only 13% of U.S. residents
  • Structural racism and racialized social control are both the cause and the function of mass incarceration in the U.S

After COVID-19

  • Many incarcerated people are vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19, with a reported 52% having some underlying medical condition that the CDC has identified as “high risk” for severe illness or complications due to COVID-19
  • Abhorrent conditions in prisons have led to the rapid spread of COVID-19 because most of the incarcerated are NOT given access to basic necessities such as soap, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, or surface cleaners
  • A reported 30% of incarcerated loved ones did not have access to medical care
  • Many incarcerated people have been deprived of due process during COVID-19, further prolonging their incarceration and exposure to the virus.
  • 62% of those surveyed said that their incarcerated loved ones were scared of losing their lives

What can you do to help make a difference?

  1. Learn more about the needs and demands of people with incarcerated loved ones by reading the Lives on the Line Report.

Moving Forward



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COVID Racism Study

COVID Racism Study


The @COVIDRacism Study documents racism, inequity & injustice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by UCLA’s @RacialHealthEq & @CDrewU.