Prisons, jails, and immigration detention facilities across the United States have become hotspots for COVID-19. By May 13th, over 25,239 people in prisons had tested positive for the virus -- a direct result of certain states increasing testing. In other words, COVID-19 has been circulating in correctional facilities in much greater numbers than reported, and if all states accelerated testing in prisons, the numbers of infected would likely skyrocket.

Accounts from incarcerated people all over the country tell horror stories: lack of ability or PPE to protect themselves, cross-contamination and negligence by medical staff, sick people being tossed in solitary confinement and left without treatment as a form of quarantine, and lack of adequate food and commissary access (toothpaste, soap, snacks to supplement meager meals, etc).

On April 29th, a 43-year-old woman died of COVID-19 in solitary confinement in a New Jersey prison. Staff had locked Tiffany Mofield in a shower, where she begged to be let out for five minutes before passing out (her second time passing out in the shower). When help finally came, it was too late, and Ms. Mofield died on the way to the ambulance.

Michelle Angelina is housed in the same ad seg unit where Ms Mofield died, and said this to The Intercept:

“It is the daily flaws in how the facility is operated from an administrative position that caused the circumstances that led to Ms. Mofield’s death, not the officers’ fault,” stressed Angelina. “Inmates should not be locked in showers, should not be handcuffed to go to and from the shower, and should not be left to wait with no assistance in hearing range in a locked shower, begging for help because they can’t breathe.”

An anonymous man incarcerated in Ohio’s Marion Correctional Institution, one of the biggest hotspots for the virus in the country, wrote a letter that Michelle Alexander re-published in her recent op-ed, “Let Our People Go”, for the New York Times. In it he describes caring for friends who are seriously ill with COVID-19:


“Neither he nor I have notified the staff because we know from other friends’ experiences that he will be thrown into a cell and left to his own devices. We believe that we — unqualified inmates — can do better.

 I also thought of another friend who, only now after two weeks, is beginning to walk on his own again. The virus hit him hard. At one point he had such difficulty breathing that we thought for certain he would die. We frantically scrambled around trying all sorts of remedies, while insisting that the guards alert the medical staff. The nurses refused to come.”

Significant decarceration is among the greatest needs facing prisons, jails, and detention centers in the time of COVID-19; but inadequate medical care, food scarcity, over-crowding, filthy/inhumane conditions, and bad policy set the stage for a perfect storm. 

Correctional facilities, the systems that oversee them, and the issues that people imprisoned within them face differ from state to state, presenting barriers to massive national advocacy for incarcerated people. COVID-19

has created an emergency on top of an existing emergency, and this human rights crisis must be addressed with transparency and accountability in every county, state, and federal facility across the country. 

Add your voice to the voices of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States and demand that our local, state, and federal government address not only the COVID-19 health crisis today, but the underlying systemic issues that made incarcerated people so vulnerable to this crisis in the first place. Tell the media we want continued news and investigative journalism providing transparency and accountability for conditions in prisons.

COVID-19 in Prisons and Jails Epidemic

What Can You Do?

Sign the petition demanding justice for all incarcerated peoples at risk of COVID-19

Share this campaign on social media to raise awareness for the injustice

Volunteer with our partner PRSL to support incarcerated people's rights

Our Campaign Partner

PRSL logo.jpg