AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas has had the most deaths and infections from COVID-19 among people in prisons and jails than any other state, according to a new report from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.
The report states more than 230 people have died from the coronavirus, including prison and jail staff and incarcerated peoples, according to a press release. The rate of infection in Texas prisons is nearly 500% higher than the overall statewide rate and 620% higher than the national average.
One key finding from the report is 80% of people in county jails who died from COVID-19 were not yet convicted of a crime. Another is 58% of people who died in Texas prisons from the coronavirus were eligible for parole, and nine people who died were approved but not released.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on prisons and jails across the country, and especially in Texas,” Michele Deitch, the study’s lead author and a UT professor, said in a press release from Monday. “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.”
Black people make up 33% of both the Texas prison population and of COVID-19 deaths in Texas prisons despite only making up 13% of the state population, according to the report. Hispanic people make up 36% of the COVID-19 deaths in Texas prisons and white people make up 30%.
Federal prisons and ICE facilities were not factored into the study, according to the press release.