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Here are the numbers behind COVID-19's devastating effects on Texas jails and prisons

The report shows 231 people died from COVID-19 in Texas correctional facilities: 190 prison inmates, 14 jail inmates and 27 staff members.

HOUSTON — A report by researchers at the University of Texas gives a startling look at just how bad coronavirus has hit Texas jails and prisons.

When COVID-19 hit America, correctional facilities quickly became a concern.

“Experts warned that prisons and jails were going to become petri dishes for the spread of the virus," said Michele Deitch, distinguished senior lecturer at LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Now, several months later, scholars at UT, like Deitch, are taking a look at the impact.

“It was stunning. The loss of life has been tremendous. There’s been a devastating toll," Deitch said.

The report includes numbers from when the pandemic began until Oct. 4. In that time, it shows 231 people died from COVID-19 in correctional facilities: 190 prison inmates, 14 jail inmates and 27 staff members.

“The report is just chock full of one devastating statistic after another,"  Deitch said.

Like the fact that 80 percent of the 14 people who died in jail were awaiting trial and hadn’t yet been convicted of a crime, 21 had less than two years on their sentence, nine had already been approved for parole and the average age of an inmate who died in prison was only 64 years old.

“People in prisons and jails tend to age a lot quicker than people on the outside," Deitch said.

And people inside Texas prisons have a significantly higher chance of getting COVID-19 than those on the outside. In fact, 490 percent higher, according to the report. And they’re 40 percent more likely to get COVID-19 than the national prison population.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice has released a statement in response:

"While this report attempts to capture the impact of the virus on the prison population, what is noticeably absent is a discussion of the TDCJ's first in the nation, sustained, and aggressive mass asymptomatic testing campaign. To date, more than 65,000 employee and 219,000 inmate tests have been carried out. This is far more than any other correctional system in the country."

But Deitch said COVID-19 testing is not what this report was about.

“What we were looking at is the number of deaths," she explained.

The true goal of the report, she said, is to figure out what to do next.

“We really need to be reducing the population in our prisons and jails to enable the people who are there to be safer and to get certain people out of harm's way," Deitch said.

To view the full report, click here.

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