Chart showing the number of COVID-19 cases, per 100,000 residents, expected in counties between May 1 and August 1, depending on the number of incarcerated people per square mile in all other counties in the same BEA economic area. With no incarceration in the surrounding counties, an average nonmetro county could expect about 780 new cases per 100,000 over those three months, and an average metro county could expect about 770 new cases per 100,000. But in an economic area at the 95th percentile for incarceration, a nonmetro county could expect about 923 new cases per 100,000, and a metro county about 976 cases per 100,000, over the same time period.

Data Source: For source and methodology details, see: www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/covidspread.html. (Graph: Wendy Sawyer, 2020)

This graph originally appeared in Mass Incarceration, COVID-19, and Community Spread.

The number of COVID-19 cases, per 100,000 residents, expected in counties between May 1 and August 1, depending on the number of incarcerated people per square mile in all other counties in the BEA economic area (controlling for other relevant factors). Each county’s own incarcerated population is excluded from the BEA-level measure of incarceration. This chart displays point estimates (as circles), and the upper and lower bounds of the 95% confidence interval (the vertical lines). This chart shows that for both metro and nonmetro counties, being located within a multicounty BEA economic area with a higher incarcerated population density (such as an area with multiple large prisons or jails) was associated with more new cases of the novel coronavirus from May 1 to August 1, 2020 — even when completely disregarding the county’s own incarcerated population. The effect of being located in a high-incarceration economic area was stronger for metro counties (shown in orange) than for nonmetro counties (shown in green).

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