jail prison

How Has COVID-19 Affected Prison Populations?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Monik Jimenez

Dr. Jimenez

Monik Carmen Jimenez, Sc.D
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We wanted to get a comprehensive picture of the epidemiology of COVID-19 in carceral facilities that included jails and was not restricted solely to prisons. We utilized publicly available data collected in Massachusetts, pursuant to a court order. These data included prison and jail systems and were used to calculate rates of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and testing rates among incarcerated individuals. We were also able to compare those to changes in the population size within each system.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: Our main findings demonstrate that the rates of COVID-19 among individuals who are incarcerated are alarmingly high. In fact, 3 times higher than the general population of the state of Massachusetts and nearly five times higher than the US general population. Also, we found that carceral systems which tested more individuals, and which released fewer individuals, had higher rates of confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The devastating impact of this pandemic among people who are incarcerated must be addressed. Carceral facilities are not constructed to allow for the type of physical distancing that has been the key public health tool to reduce transmission. In addition, a lack of comprehensive and widespread testing across carceral systems impairs a comprehensive public health response. Also, data transparency is severely lacking, and more data is needed to understand the full scope across all carceral systems in the US. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: More work is needed to understand the lived experiences of those who are incarcerated during this time. Many of the mitigation strategies that have been employed by carceral systems, such as lockdowns, termination of visitation, and reduced access to routine medical care, will undoubtedly have severe impacts on individuals’ mental and physical health. Additionally, research examining carceral systems’ compliance to CDC recommendations is urgently needed. Finally, more work is needed to examine transmission of COVID-19 between carceral settings and local communities.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Decarceration is a key and viable mitigation strategy that must be utilized to protect incarcerated individuals, communities most heavily impacted by mass incarceration and staff working in carceral settings. 


Jiménez MC, Cowger TL, Simon LE, Behn M, Cassarino N, Bassett MT. Epidemiology of COVID-19 Among Incarcerated Individuals and Staff in Massachusetts Jails and Prisons. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2018851. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.18851




The information on MedicalResearch.com is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.


Last Updated on August 21, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD