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Deaths in US prisons up by 50% during 1st Covid year: Report

Washington, Feb 20 (IANS) US state and federal prisons saw deaths surging nearly 50 per cent during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, and in six states they had more than doubled, a media report revealed.

The New York Times report on Sunday was the first comprehensive data on prison fatalities in the era of the pandemic.

“The tremendous jump in deaths in 2020 was more than twice the increase in the US overall, and even exceeded estimates of the percentage increase at nursing homes, among the hardest-hit sectors nationwide,” Xinhua news agency reported citing the newspaper as saying.

While there was ample evidence that prisons were Covid hot spots, the data underscored how quickly the virus rampaged through crowded facilities, and how an aging inmate population, a correctional staffing shortage and ill-equipped medical personnel combined to make prisoners especially vulnerable during the worst public health crisis in a century, according to the report.

Covid infections drove the death tolls, but inmates also succumbed to other illnesses, suicide and violence, according to the data, which was collected by law school researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Altogether, at least 6,182 people died in American prisons in 2020, compared with 4,240 the previous year, even as the country’s prison population declined to about 1.3 million from more than 1.4 million, the report said.