Correctional and detention facilities have proven to be hotspots for COVID-19, with the ten largest outbreak clusters in the United States occurring in prisons or jails. Staff and visitors come and go from correctional institutions, potentially bringing infection in and out. As facility administrators and health officials shift from immediate crisis response to managing a dynamic and long-term event, data-tracking tools can guide proactive steps to manage outbreaks and improve conditions of confinement.
The Litmus team generated a census of state adult correctional and detention facilities and created an interactive mapping tool that uses publicly available, county-level data from the New York Times on numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, updated daily, to indicate which facilities are located in or near counties that appear to be at high risk for community transmission. Community risk is calculated using three alternative metrics: recent deaths, recent death rates per 100k, and current case-doubling time.
With support from Unorthodox Philanthropy, the NYU Marron Institute interactive mapping tool is created as a resource for families and advocacy groups and to assist decision-makers in prioritizing PPE, staff and resident testing, increased social distancing (e.g., dorm closures), more stringent cleaning procedures, and adapting policies, including early release, in response to COVID-19 outbreaks. It can guide intra-system transfers, indicating facilities between which it may be safe to transfer residents and facilities that should restrict new transfers and keep vacancies as people release, to allow for greater social distancing. The tool is also intended to make community-risk information more accessible so that it can be used to improve conditions of confinement. Community-risk data can help prioritize lower-risk facilities for relaxing restrictions on external service providers and allowing more congregant time or outside visitors, improving upon the stark conditions in which many incarcerated people currently reside. It can inform release protocols, allowing for prioritization of quarantine housing, testing, and other support for people returning to their communities from high-risk facilities and serve as a mechanism to target community partnerships between facilities, local health departments, and community-serving organizations.