State and federal correctional facilities performed 4,816,400 viral tests for COVID-19 on persons in prison from the beginning of March 2020 to the end of February 2021. Of these tests, 8.2 percent were positive for COVID-19, representing 374,400 unique infected persons in state and federal prisons, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The infection rate in prisons during the 12-month period was 219 per 1,000 state prisoners at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and 298 per 1,000 federal prisoners. Staff in state correctional facilities had an infection rate of 269 per 1,000 staff, while those in the Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities had a rate of 188 per 1,000.
Almost 2,500 persons held in state and federal prisons died of COVID-19-related causes from March 2020 to February 2021, as did 196 staff members. Whites accounted for 44 percent of COVID-19-related deaths in prisons, while blacks accounted for 34 percent. Eighty-three percent of COVID-19-related deaths in state and federal prisons occurred among inmates 55 or older. The number of prisoners overall decreased more than 16 percent during the 12-month study period. Through the end of August, 2020, the prison population declined by 157,500. Twenty-four states released 37,700 persons from prison earlier than scheduled from March 2020 to February 2021.