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COVID-19 in Prisons and Jails in the United States

Educational Objective
To understand how vulnerable prisons and jails are to COVID-19 outbreaks
1 Credit CME

In mid-March 2020, the first case of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) was diagnosed at Riker’s Island, the main jail complex in New York City. Within 2 weeks, more than 200 cases were diagnosed within the facility, despite efforts to curb the spread. The situation at the Cook County jail in Chicago is similar, with about 350 incarcerated persons and staff members testing positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus as of early April 2020. Many other jails and prisons have reported outbreaks of COVID-19 and related deaths.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Laura Hawks, MD, Department of Medicine, Cambridge Health Alliance, 1493 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02143 (lhawks@hsph.harvard.edu).

Published Online: April 28, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1856

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

References
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2.
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Maruschak  LM , Berzofsky  M , Unangst  J . Medical problems of state and federal prisoners and jail inmates, 2011-12. Published February 2015. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mpsfpji1112.pdf.
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Andrews  J . The current state of public and private prison healthcare. Penn Wharton: Public Policy Initiative. Published 2017. Accessed November 20, 2019. https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/news/1736-the-current-state-of-public-and-private-prison/for-students/blog/news.php#_edn21.
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Trusts  PC . Prison Health Care: Costs and Quality. Published December 8, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2017/10/sfh_prison_health_care_costs_and_quality_final.pdf?la=en&hash=C3120E4248708AB27435866F5EEC12AE24F63DFE.
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Akiyama  MJ , Spaulding  AC , Rich  JD .  Flattening the curve for incarcerated populations—COVID-19 in jails and prisons.   N Engl J Med. Published online April 2, 2020. doi:10.1056/NEJMp2005687PubMedGoogle Scholar
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Binswanger  IA , Stern  MF , Deyo  RA ,  et al.  Release from prison—a high risk of death for former inmates.   N Engl J Med. 2007;356(2):157-165. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa064115PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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Lurye  R . Connecticut shelters rapidly moving people to hotels to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks; homeless individual tests positive in Hartford. Hartford Courant. March 30, 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020. https://www.courant.com/coronavirus/hc-news-coronavirus-homeless-shelter-relocations-20200330-i5mzljkeanduhnxnt74wwkqpmu-story.html.
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