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The United States holds some 2.3 million individuals in prisons, jails and other detention centers, incarcerating more people per capita than any other nation. That includes nearly 500,000 people who have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trials, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. (Some jails have taken steps to reduce overcrowding since the pandemic started.)

The figure also includes some 44,000 youngsters who are held in juvenile facilities and an estimated 42,000 in immigration detention centers.

People held in confinement are uniquely vulnerable to the virus. Incarcerated individuals are four times more likely to become infected than people in the general population, according to a study by the criminal justice commission. Over all, Covid-19 mortality rates among prisoners are higher than in the general population.

So far, at least 200,000 inmates have already been infected with Covid-19, and at least 1,450 inmates and correctional officers have died from the virus, according to a database maintained by The New York Times.

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Those numbers most likely underestimate the magnitude of the problem, because reporting requirements are spotty and vary from state to state, said Dr. Tom Inglesby, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and another co-author of the vaccine allocation report.

In Connecticut, doctors tested over 10,000 prisoners in state prisons and jails from March to June and found that 13 percent were infected with the coronavirus, according to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Inmates who lived in dormitory housing were at highest risk. Older inmates and Latino inmates also were more likely than others to be infected.

Even before the pandemic, many older inmates had poor health after decades of “hard living,” said Dr. Charles Lee, president-elect of the American College of Correctional Physicians.



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