NATIONWIDE -- Stats concerning cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations, recoveries and deaths have been pretty easy to obtain and widely reported. What might be overlooked in some instances, though, is the number of jail, state and federal prison inmates and employees who are testing positive.


What You Need To Know

  • Handful of states aggressively testing prisons for COVID-19

  • 70% of tested prisoners in federal prisons have come back positive, AP reports

  • Social distancing measures in place at some prisons, jails

  • Bureau of Prisons has obtained more than 5,000 coronavirus test kits


While at first glance these may seem like isolated locations that don’t present an immediate threat, these facilities include guards, nurses, chaplains, wardens and other employees who have the potential to spread the virus to the greater population.

The Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism organization that focuses on issues related to the U.S. criminal justice system, has been tracking COVID-19 cases at correctional facilities in each state.

According to the Marshall Project, as of May 6, at least 20,119 people in U.S. prisons had tested positive for COVID-19, a 36 percent increase from the week prior.

The Associated Press reported that more than 70 percent of tested inmates in federal prisons have returned positive results for COVID-19.

In reality those numbers may be much higher. The Marshall Project reported that just a handful of states – Texas, Ohio, Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina and others – have aggressively tested prison populations and employees for COVID-19.

As of May 6, Texas reported 1,336 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among prisoners.

At last check, Bexar County Jail alone reported 303 inmates and 55 staff members were positive for COVID-19.

The Marshall Project additionally reported that so far 304 U.S. prisoners have died due to COVID-19 or virus-related causes, an increase of 39 percent over the week prior.

According to the Associated Press, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Contro and Preventionl officials, prison officials have implemented policies to slow the spread of coronavirus, among them limiting prisoner movement, setting up tents to increase bed space, and isolating some prisoners.

In addition, by late April, the Bureau of Prison had obtained more than 5,000 coronavirus test kits and had deployed 20 rapid testing machines to prisons identified as hotspots.

In addition to employees, there is the possibility that as prisoners cycle out of the system, they could further spread COVID-19 in U.S. communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.