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Putting Virginia’s Prison COVID Cases and Deaths in Context

(Photo: Larry Farr on Unsplash)

After more than a year of battling the spread of COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Corrections is reporting zero active coronavirus cases in state prisons.  New data from the Marshall Project puts the death toll and infection rates into a national context.  

The Marshall Project, which is a news organization dedicated to criminal justice reporting, has tracked COVID-19 infections in prisons across the country. As of early June, cases among incarcerated people had reached 400,000. At least 2,700 have died.  

In Virginia, corrections officials have reported 9,000 COVID-19 cases and 56 deaths in state prisons. Most prisoners who were sick have recovered and been vaccinated. The positivity rate in Virginia’s 26 prisons was almost 4 times that of the state overall, with a death rate 1.5 times higher. Prison staff also suffered from the rapid spread of COVID-19.  More than 2,600 have been infected, and at least five have died. 

Nationwide, California tops the list of states with more than 49,000 cases of COVID-19 in its state-run prisons, slightly exceeding the number of infections in federal prisons, which have had more people infected than any other system. 

The Marshall Project reports that it’s difficult to fully grasp the toll the pandemic has had on people incarcerated in federal prisons. That data is limited by the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy of removing cases and deaths from its reports in recent months. 

There are five federal prisons in Virginia.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.