More people who are incarcerated or who work in Texas jails and prisons have contracted or died from COVID-19 than in any other state, according to a new report from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
The report was produced as part of the COVID, Corrections, and Oversight Project at the LBJ School. Michele Deitch is the project’s director and also a distinguished senior lecturer. She told Texas Standard that the group based its numbers on reports that must be filed when someone dies in custody.
“There were a total of 231 deaths; 190 of them occurred in our Texas prison system and 14 of them were from jails around the state,” she said.
Additionally, 27 prison and jail staff members died from COVID-19.
Deitch said seven prison facilities in Texas had more than half of the 190 deaths in all of the state’s prisons. In one prison, 6% of the population had died.
Among those who died, many were in jail having not been convicted of a crime. Some who were in prisons were eligible for parole but had not yet been released.
“That’s telling us that we can look to this population for trying to speed up our releases, to get out people who are the most medically vulnerable, as well as those who would present the least risk to our communities,” Deitch said.