• A new study commissioned by ACLU says inmates can become COVID-19 super-spreaders
  • The study also said jails might cause the U.S. death count to double
  • Reports say U.S. correctional facilities are among the top 10 infection sources

The American Civil Liberties Union released a new epidemiological study conducted by academic researchers. The study revealed, among others, the failure of COVID-19 death models to consider the role jails can play in spreading the virus. This could mean that the death toll in the United States is grossly undercounted, the organization said.

coronavirus outbreak could extend to jails and create super-spreaders according to new study commissioned by aclu
coronavirus outbreak could extend to jails and create super-spreaders according to new study commissioned by aclu Joseph Fulgham - Pixabay

Vectors For Infection

According to the ACLU, the levels of incarceration in other countries that have or are currently fighting the coronavirus pandemic are the same as those in the United States. The rights organization also said that conditions in U.S. correctional facilities are mediocre compared to other first-world countries.

The model, according to ACLU, shows that jails are likely to “act as vectors for infection in their surrounding communities.” This means it is not just the inmates and guards that can suffer but also the communities around them, the rights organization said.

A Grim Projection

The ACLU model revealed that Trump administration models showing that the death count in the United States is under 100,000 failed to consider several factors that change the fatality toll. According to the rights body, if such factors are included, then it will “explosively increase the loss of life unless drastic reforms are adopted to reduce the nation’s jail populations.”

It was also shown by the ACLU model that if the government fails to lower jail populations and impose effective social distancing in jails, coronavirus-related deaths could reach 200,000. In an interview with the HuffPost, Udi Ofer said the problem is unique to the United States, one that other countries are not facing in their fight against the coronavirus. Udi Ofer is the Justice Division Director of the ACLU National Political and Advocacy Department. “We think this is going to be our Achilles heel ... if we continue to operate jails as business-as-usual,” Ofer said.

Top 10 Infection Sources In The U.S.

A New York Times report says that four of the top 10 biggest-known infection sources in the U.S. were correctional facilities. According to the report, the high rates of turnover in jails are seen as an effective mechanism in spreading coronavirus in the surrounding communities. The report also revealed that in the Chicago area, over 700 correctional officers and detainees at Cook County Jail are found to be COVID-19 positive. Since the outbreak, four detainees have already died.

According to Ofer, what their model shows is that unless authorities take a serious look at the mass incarceration crisis, the country cannot return to its normal life. Federal and local officials must understand that jails play “…a huge role in the COVID-19 crisis in the United States,” said Ofer.