Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 492,000 documented cases of COVID-19 among inmates and staff in US prisons, jails, and detention centers, according to the COVID Prison Project.

That’s nearly as many cases as in the entire state of Minnesota.

Further, there have been more than 2,500 deaths due to the coronavirus.

As high as they are, these numbers are likely an undercount of infections in settings where crowding makes it easy for the virus to spread and inadequate health care leaves populations especially vulnerable, says Homer Venters, an adjunct clinical associate professor at the School of Global Public Health New York University.

Some of these COVID-19 are the latest example of “jail-attributable deaths,” a term Venters coined for cases in which a death can be linked to care or conditions behind bars—for instance, not providing insulin to an incarcerated person with diabetes.

A physician and epidemiologist, Venters previously served as the chief medical officer for New York City’s correctional health services. Over the past year, he has focused on addressing COVID-19 responses in jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers, reviewing policies and procedures and conducting in-person inspections of more than 20 facilities across the country.

Last month, Venters was appointed to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. The mandate of the task force, led by Marcella Nunez-Smith at Yale University, is to help ensure an equitable response to the pandemic.

“For my part, I am eager to contribute perspective about how devastating COVID-19 has been behind bars and promote some evidence-based solutions,” says Venters. “The conditions I have seen in COVID-19 responses across the nation represent a stark example of racial disparities in health care and outcomes from COVID-19.”

Here, Venters discusses the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on incarcerated people and how it has exacerbated existing health challenges in these settings (Note: His comments are his own and do not represent official task force positions):

Read the full article about COVID-19 in prisons by Rachel Harrison at Futurity.