Data accounting for prison COVID-19 cases projects 100,000 death increase

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

The ACLU of Indiana released findings Wednesday stating that a new data model projects the national COVID-19 death toll could be 100,000 deaths higher than previously projected.

“We are likely facing massive loss of life — both in Indiana jails and in our communities — if dramatic steps aren’t taken to reduce our incarcerated population,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections, over 200 inmates and 100 staff in Indiana prisons have tested positive for COVID-19. Three inmates have died from the virus.

The ACLU of Indiana has written open letters to Gov. Holcomb and other local officials in Indiana’s 10 largest cities asking them to reduce the number of Hoosiers who are incarcerated during the pandemic. Afterwards, the organization submitted an emergency petition to the Indiana Supreme Court requesting immediate action to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state’s correctional facilities but the petition was denied.

Now the ACLU of Indiana is asking Hoosiers to sign a call to action urging Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) to take steps to reduce Indiana’s prison population.

“We called on people and continue to call on people to contact Gov. Holcomb to urge him to take statewide action,” Henegar said. “After we heard from the state Supreme Court, we started calling for people to contact the governor so we could have them share their stories and their perspective. We know that a majority of Americans believe that reducing the jail and prison population is the right thing to do in the time of this crisis.”

Photo at top: Social distancing on a spring evening in Downtown Indianapolis. (Samone Blair/MEDILL).