U.S. prisons, along with other “closed” institutions (e.g., nursing homes), have been especially susceptible to COVID-19 infection and death; yet, due to data limitations, the full scope of mortality in prisons during the pandemic is unknown. Analysis of mortality data collected by the researchers from 48 Departments of Corrections provides the most comprehensive understanding to date of excess mortality during 2020, compared to prior years. They find that mortality rates, including total mortality and mortality by manner of death (natural and unnatural), varied substantially across DOCs. This work brings greater attention to excess mortality in U.S. prisons while emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and standardized national accounting of mortality in carceral settings.

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