Cases of the novel coronavirus in American prisons and jails have doubled over the last month.
There are more than 68,000 inmates confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, reported The New York Times.
According to the newspaper, the five largest-known clusters across the country are in correctional institutions, prison complexes and jails.
Additionally, deaths among prisoners have soared by nearly 75 percent over the last four weeks.
Over the last month, coronavirus cases among prison inmates have more than doubled to more than 68,000. Pictured: Inmates gather outside of tents at the Federal Correctional Institute Terminal Island prison in Los Angeles, California, May 1
The five largest-known clusters across the US are in correctional institutions, prison complexes and jails including two in Ohio. Pictured: An inmate cleans a jail cell at Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility in Santee, California, April 22
The Times reports that the largest cluster is at the Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, with nearly 2,500 cases.
In the same state, at the Pickaway Correctional Institution in Scioto Township, there are more than 1,700 confirmed infections.
This means there are some prisons in the US that have more cases of the virus than in entire countries.
For example, Cyprus, with a population of about 1.17 million, has only had 985 cases of COVID-19.
Additionally, in New Zealand, which had an infamous two-week run of no cases, only 1,156 people have contracted the virus.
Part of the problem is that the pandemic has been particularly challenging for inmates inside jails and prisons.
Many correctional facilities are overcrowded or have common areas where social distancing cannot be practiced.
There is often insufficient amounts of soap in bathroom to wash their hands and a lack of access to cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer and wipes.
As states have ramped up testing, it’s become more clear how widespread the problem is.
In Texas, more than 7,400 inmates have tested positive for the virus, and at least 54 prisoners and eight staff members have died from it.
Meanwhile, New York has tested just 1,200 of it’s approximately 40,000 inmates, but about 40 percent of those tested are confirmed to have coronavirus.
According to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, 16 inmates and five workers have died from COVID-19.
‘We have really no true idea of how bad the problem is because most places are not yet testing the way they should,’ Dr Homer Venters, former chief medical officer for the New York City jail system, told The Times.
‘I think a lot of times some of the operational challenges of either not having adequate quarantine policies or adequate medical isolation policies are so vexing that places simply decide that they can just throw up their hands.’
This has led to thousands of prisoners across the country being freed in an effort to stop an outbreak from occurring behind bars.
However, victims are often left angry that perpetrators are walking free and people in neighborhoods are worried about crime spikes.
So, some prisons have turned to a different method
A new report from Unlock the Box, a coalition fighting against solitary confinement, say more prisoners are being kept in isolation to prevent outbreaks.
The report says that before the pandemic, 60,000 people were in solitary confinement. Now, it’s up to around 300,000 people – a 400 percent spike.
Advocates disagree that this is an appropriate solution and are worried that the restrictions will remain for many prisoners even after the pandemic is over.