People in prison have been 5.5 times more likely to get COVID-19 and have suffered a COVID-19 mortality rate 3 times higher than the general public. Now, new data from UCLA Law’s COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project published this week in preprint reveals the degree to which the death rate from all causes of death — not just COVID-19 — increased in Florida state prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings, outlined below, give us a much fuller picture of how deadly COVID-19 has been in prisons.

More deaths, despite fewer people in prisons

The researchers collected monthly population counts for Florida state prisons from 2015 to 2020. Based on this data, the Florida state prison population decreased by about 10,000 in 2020, a reduction of approximately 11% since 2019. The Florida Department of Corrections attributes this population reduction to “fewer arrests and prosecutions, fewer individuals sentenced to incarceration, and fewer commitments received from county jails,” suggesting that while fewer people entered prison, there were no large-scale efforts to release people who were nearing the end of their sentence or those who were at high risk for death related to COVID-19. Despite the slightly smaller prison population, there were more deaths in 2020 (across all causes of death) than in any of the five years prior.

During 2020, there were 42% more “excess deaths” — from all causes — in Florida prisons

During 2020, the United States experienced 23% more deaths than expected, but the Florida prison system experienced almost double that: there were 42% more deaths than expected behind bars in Florida. Importantly, not all of these “excess deaths” are officially attributed to COVID-19.

Read the full article about deaths in Florida prisons by Emily Widra at Prison Policy Initiative.