COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge to the public health of our nation. People incarcerated in our nation’s 5,000 jails and prisons face particular threat, and their vulnerability may impact the success of our overall national response. To address this uncharted challenge, COCHS is dedicating this page to available resources and proposals of COCHS and partner organizations.

( COCHS is aware that stakeholders from the different backgrounds of corrections, healthcare, and policy may be unfamiliar with terminology from each other's area of expertise. In 2012 COCHS released a glossary, Speaking the Same Language: Criminal Justice, Health Care, and Information Technology, which might be helpful in clarifying technical terms.)

Establishing State and Federal Correctional Health Coordinators to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The national response to the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing life-threatening gaps in the health system’s response for people who are in involved in the criminal justice system. There are large and immediate health risks to people who are incarcerated and correctional officers. In Establishing State and Federal Correctional Health Coordinators to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic, COCHS proposes that states should establish correctional health coordinators to coordinate the emergency response for incarcerated people.

We believe that the creation of a Correctional HealthCoordinator with state and federal coordinating authority could cut across silos. States could move forward immediately to create a Correctional Health Coordinator through funding available in the CARES Act, but new coronavirus relief legislation could establish a leadership role and grant program in HHS that funds new state-level correctional health coordinators.

A Policy Brief for an 1135 Medicaid Waiver

As COVID-19 spreads throughout correctional facilities, there will be an urgent need for inpatient care of patients who develop serious complications. Over half of incarcerated people have a serious physical or behavioral health problem and many are over 60 years old.

Policymakers have specific tools available to them during a National Emergency declared by the president. Under section 1135 of the Social Security Act, the Health and Human Services Secretary may temporarily waive certain Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP requirements at the request of states.

On March 20, COCHS disseminated a policy brief (Addressing the Needs of Justice-Involved People During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An 1135 Waiver Approach) suggesting an 1135 waiver that provides guidance on how such waivers may offer potential solutions to the issue of accessing inpatient levels of care for incarcerated patients.

COCHS & VERA COVID-19 Guidance
In partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice, COCHS and Vera have released five briefs that provide guidance to government actors on how they should respond to the Coronavirus to keep justice-involved people, system practitioners, and our communities healthy and safe.
Dr. Homer Venters, the President of COCHS: COVID-19 in Corrections

In reference to COVID-19, Dr. Homer Venters has been asked by multiple sources to give his advice on how healthcare providers and correctional professionals could best respond to the pandemic.

How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus
The New Yorker
No one can predict exactly what will happen if the coronavirus starts to spread inside American jails and prisons, but Homer Venters can make some very educated guesses. Venters, the former chief medical officer on Rikers Island, trained as a physician and an epidemiologist, and, in 2009, he helped oversee efforts to contain the outbreak of the H1N1 virus inside New York City’s jails.
Coronavirus behind bars: 4 priorities to save the lives of prisoners
The Hill
In an op-ed for The Hill, Homer Venters, the President of COCHS, writes: The mortal threat that COVID-19 represents to health and well-being is no longer in dispute. There is no part of American society that is less prepared for coronavirus or graver a threat to health than jails, prisons and immigration detention centers. COVID-19 has now arrived in these institutions.
Conversation about COVID-19 and the justice system
The Vera Institute of Justice
Unable to practice social distancing or to easily access soap or hand sanitizer (which is still considered contraband in most prisons), people behind bars live in settings that are, tragically, ideal incubators for the spread of COVID-19. In this recording, many experts including Dr. Homer Venters, President of COCHS discuss what has been learned so far.
Resources from COCHS & Partner Organizations

COCHS continuously tracks resources available and proposals advanced by partner organizations. Below are links to some of our partners' important contributions in confronting this pandemic.

Addressing the Justice-Involved Population in Coronavirus Response Efforts
Kaiser Family Foundation
This brief provides an overview of health risks for the justice-involved population, discusses the role Medicaid can play in response efforts for justice-involved individuals, and identifies other steps states and localities can take to mitigate risk and spread of coronavirus among this population to protect and promote public health.
Map of News Stories of COVID-19 Outbreaks Within Correctional Facilities
COCHS
COCHS now offers an interactive map which allows quick way to access current COVID-19 statistics posted by each state's departments of corrections. Many of these pages are being updated on a daily basis. At the moment 36 states are providing statistics about COVID-19 cases. The supplied data are in multiple formats: tables, PDFs, or a simple posting of confirmed cases.
Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
Prison Policy Initiative
Prison Policy Initiative is tracking examples of state and local agencies taking meaningful steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. This page contains multiple links to reports of jurisdictions that are releasing inmates, reducing jail and prison admissions, reducing incarceration and unnecessary face-to-face contact for people on parole and probation, eliminating medical co-pays, and reducing the cost of phone and video calls.
Map of News Stories of COVID-19 Outbreaks Within Correctional Facilities
COVID-19 Behind Bars
COVID-19 Behind Bars is an independent journalism project tracking jails, prisons, detention centers, and other facilities of incarceration impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. On this site you will find a world map with markers that link to news stories of COVID-19 reports in specific correctional institutions.
Study of COVID-19 in Correctional Facilities
NCCHC and Harvard Kennedy School
NCCHC and researchers from Harvard University are working together to gather information on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting correctional facilities. NCCHC has a page on its website devoted to this where there are multiple links to PDFs that contain statistics about COVID-19 from a state and regional perspective. The data are presented in the following formats: graphs, tables, and maps.
Inmate COVID-19 testing in federal correctional institutions
Correctional Service of Canada
Our neighbor from the north, Canada, is providing detailed statistics from its multiple facilites in each providence. The tables are be updated on a regular basis and are presented in a concise, comprehensible format.
COVID–19 Incarceration Model
recidiviz
As COVID-19 spreads, state and local government leaders are on the front-lines of managing the response. recidiviz has created an on-line tool to help criminal justice decision makers understand how the incarcerated population is likely to interact with the public health system as the pandemic spreads.
COVID-19 Coronavirus: What You Need to Know in Corrections
NCCHC
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care's website is providing a list of resources for correctional institutions confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Should Prisons and Jails Prepare for COVID-19?
Urban Institute
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Urban Institute is advancing strategies as well as considerations and implications for policymakers and correctional leadership in local jurisdictions to keep in mind when developing plans for the health of incarcerated populations.