The COVID-19 pandemic is an urgent and unsettling magnifier of longstanding racial injustices in the United States. These injustices are laid bare most profoundly in the United States’ prisons and jails, where one out of every five people has had COVID-19 and where the rate of infection is four times as high as the general population. It would be a mistake, however, to imagine prisons and jails as separate from society. The rampant infection and profound suffering under COVID-19 in carceral facilities serves as a major source of transmission into communities at-large, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities.

This vicious cycle—largely unaddressed by criminal legal and other state apparatuses—continues unabated, leaving behind a social precedent that undercuts well-established epidemiological and public health research, basic human rights principles, and the imperatives racial justice and antiracism.

Addressing the Public Health Crisis of U.S. Carceral Facilities


The COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know

(For Incarcerated Individuals)

The COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know

(For Loved Ones of People Incarcerated)

Addressing the Public Health Crisis of U.S. Carceral Facilities

The SARS-CoV-2 virus and resultant coronavirus disease (COVID19) have caused unprecedented suffering among incarcerated individuals since the beginning of the pandemic. While many believe that widespread vaccination in carceral settings will solve the problem, this perspective underestimates the severity of the situation and mischaracterizes its driver.

A number of advocates and experts stress that following structural changes are needed to address the above injustices.
These structural changes include:

Community-Based Harm Reduction Strategies

  • De-militarize policing
  • Make de-escalation a standard element of police protocol
  • Shift budget from policing to community health and social services

Reorientation of State, Prosecutorial, and Carceral Positioning

  • Transfer power and resources to communities who are already providing social supports through initiatives like credible
    messenger programs and kinship reentry
  • Incorporation of those directly impacted by the carceral system into a robust social safety net
  • No pre-trial detention
  • No cash bail
  • End mandatory minimums
  • Create system of alternatives to incarceration

Community-Carceral Health Principles

  • Vaccine distribution accompanied by decarceration
  • De-siloing corrections from public health infrastructure, giving public health departments a larger role in accountability

With these injustices and needed solutions in mind, the call to action for those in the research and policy space is three-fold:

  1. To work in solidarity with and learn from the leadership of individuals who have direct lived experience with the
    ills of mass incarceration and COVID-19;
  2. To identify research tools and advocacy pathways, and venues for democratic engagement that can help dismantle
    mechanisms of racial and medical oppression which have persisted in the criminal legal system for too long.
  3. To develop antiracist and ethical models of rapid response and collaboration that enable a wider community of stakeholders to meet the long- and short-term racial justice and public health challenges of today.

Please join us in this effort.



Key Principles for Justice, Safety, and Equity

Our overarching societal goals of delivering safety and well-being for all require securing the foundations of mental and physical health, freedom from violence, freedom of movement, housing security, food security, access to opportunity, and undistorted recognition of one’s full personhood.




The COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know (For Incarcerated Individuals)
Provides information about COVID-19 and the vaccine for people incarcerated

The COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know (For Loved Ones) Provides information about COVID-19 and the vaccine for loved ones of people incarcerated


Vaccination plus Decarceration — Stopping Covid-19 in Jails and Prisons
Pairing vaccination and decarceration is necessary to protect incarcerated individuals