FWD.us Statement on Projected Increase of COVID-19 Cases in Mississippi Prisons

JACKSON, MS — FWD.us today released a report estimating the impact of COVID-19 on Mississippi’s incarcerated population and prison employees following reports that the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) has confirmed that four incarcerated people and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. One of the incarcerated individuals with COVID-19 has died.

“Despite these clear indications that the virus is spreading in prison facilities across Mississippi, the Governor has taken no action to release people from custody and allow them to return home where they would be better able to protect themselves and others from infection,” said FWD.us Mississippi State Director Alesha Judkins. “Without urgent action, the predicted infection rates among incarcerated people and facility staff in Mississippi’s prisons will continue to increase, with deadly consequences for thousands of people.

“Governor Reeves must take bold steps to reduce the number of people in prison immediately, and ensure the health and well-being of the nearly 20,000 people incarcerated in Mississippi’s prisons, facility employees, and the surrounding communities.”

FWD.us released a report today estimating the impact of COVID-19 on Mississippi’s incarcerated population and prison employees using the COVID-19 Model for Incarceration created by Recidiviz, customized with Mississippi-specific data. Using this model, we estimate that the coronavirus will peak in Mississippi’s prisons in about a month if no action is taken to reduce the number of people behind bars. In three weeks, more than 18,000 incarcerated people – nearly every individual in MDOC custody – will have the virus. At the hospitalization peak in one month, at least 600 incarcerated people will be hospitalized, utilizing 5.6% of Mississippi’s total hospital bed capacity. Over its course, the virus is projected to kill 186 individuals incarcerated in Mississippi prisons, more than the total number of COVID-19 related deaths currently recorded in Mississippi. Releasing 5,000 individuals would reduce the projected deaths by 24% and save thousands from the deadly illness.

The conditions in Mississippi’s prisons are ripe for the rapid spread of COVID-19, because the system is operating at close to its maximum capacity, and many incarcerated people live in close-quarters dorm-style housing. On top of these dangerous conditions, many incarcerated people are particularly vulnerable to the virus. There are more than 1,000 people in prison aged 60 years or older, and more than 500 people in Mississippi prisons have been deemed medically high-risk. Furthermore, testing has thus far been very limited in prisons, with recent reports indicating that only 20 incarcerated people have been tested to date (current testing numbers for staff are not available), making it likely that the actual number of cases among incarcerated individuals and facility staff is much higher than the numbers being reported.

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