Giving Compass' Take:

• The Marshall Projects provides the known data around the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and highlights the need for additional testing and intervention. 

• How can funders best help build an understanding of the state of COVID-19 in prisons? 

• Learn more about the effects of COVID-19 in prisons

For weeks, lawyers, criminal justice reform advocates and families of the incarcerated have worried about what was happening in prisons across the nation as coronavirus began to take hold in the communities outside. Their fears seem justified.

We now can see, through data collected by The Marshall Project, that thousands of prisoners have caught the illness, and the number of cases has grown more than threefold in the last week alone. Thousands more workers, correctional officers and medical staff have been sickened. And more than 140 people—most of them incarcerated—have died thus far.

For the past month, The Marshall Project has collected data from prison systems in all 50 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons to track how the virus has spread and how prisoners and corrections workers are succumbing to it.

By Wednesday of this week, at least 9,437 people in prison had tested positive for the illness. The number of new cases among prisoners is more than doubling each week, showing that the curve used to measure when the virus is under control is still soaring in prisons even as some parts of the country are starting to flatten the curve through social distancing.

As startling as these figures are, they are almost certainly an undercount. While most prison systems are releasing information about the number of positive tests and prisoner deaths in their facilities, far less is known about how many people are being tested. Sixteen prison systems are not releasing information about how many prisoners they are testing, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which has seen several major outbreaks of coronavirus in its institutions. Of the rest, only eight systems had tested more than 400 of the people in their custody by this week.

Read the full article about coronavirus in prisons by Katie Park, Tom Meagher, and Weihua Li at The Marshall Project.