Pandemic Behind Bars

Sage Kim, Robin Fretwell Wilson, Tim Jostrand, Ali Mirza

Research output: Working paper


This policy spotlight documents the growing concern for the health of the incarcerated population and explores the implication of unabated COVID-19 outbreaks in Illinois prisons for the health of Illinois communities where correctional facilities are located. Jails and prisons are not isolated from the community. Preventing COVID-19 transmission in correctional settings requires steps to ensure that COVID-19 outbreaks within prisons do not spill over to the surrounding communities, and that community infection does not enter into correctional facilities. Correctional facilities not only in Illinois but throughout the U.S. have been affected by localized outbreaks but also experienced poor access to personal protective equipment and testing. Furthermore, because of unsanitary, crowding, and congregate living conditions, social distance, a key public health mitigation measure, has been a challenge. Correctional employees and officers are not immune to these risks. The high infection rates in correctional settings have been a concern since the beginning of the pandemic. The reports from prisons and jails around the country underline the vulnerability of the incarcerated population and correctional staff to COVID-19. IDOC will need to implement preventive measures to protect the health of inmates and staff, as well as the community. Meeting the public health and mental health needs of inmates is not only just, it is a smart public health policy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Aug 17 2021


  • correctional
  • policy
  • pandemic
  • Illinois
  • government
  • COVID-19
  • impact


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