The persons released from prison earlier than scheduled from March 2020 to February 2021 covered 24 states, while the number of people in custody declined across all states.
According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, the prison population declined by 157,500 during the first six months of the pandemic, falling another 58,300 over the following six months, totaling 215,800 releases.
Overall, U.S. prisons from the end of February 2020 to the end of February 2021 saw the number of people in the custody of state, federal or privately operated prisons under state or federal contracts drop by more than 16 percent, the study found.
According to the BJS report, state corrections facilities held 197,300 fewer prisoners over the period, a 17 percent decline.
The study found that Texas, California and Florida, which have the largest prison populations, saw a combined reduction of 84,100 individuals, or 39 percent of the total prison population decline.
Each state’s prison population fell at least 10 percent besides Louisiana (down 9 percent), Tennessee (down 7 percent), Alaska (down 5 percent), Nebraska (down 5 percent) and Idaho (down 4 percent).
Still, fewer than 10 percent of prison releases during the first year of the pandemic were earlier than scheduled.
But according to the report, nine states saw prison population increase from August 2020 to March 2021.
Meanwhile, the study found that the infection rate in prisons during this period was 219 per 1,000 state prisoners at risk of COVID-19 and 298 per 1,000 federal prisoners at risk of exposure.
In addition, corrections staff in state prisons had an infection rate of 269 per 1,000 staff, while those working in federal Bureau of Prisons facilities had a rate of 188 per 1,000.
According to the report, some 2,500 state and federal persons in prison died from Covid-related causes over the first year of the pandemic.
A total of 196 correctional staff in state and federal prisons died due to COVID-19.
The BJS report can be downloaded here.
James Van Bramer is associate editor of The Crime Report