Incarceration And Its Disseminations: COVID-19 Pandemic Lessons From Chicago’s Cook County Jail

By Eric Reinhart and Daniel Chen: For More Info, Go Here…

Jails and prisons are major sites of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Many jurisdictions in the United States have therefore accelerated release of low-risk offenders. Early release, however, does not address how arrest and pre-trial detention practices may be contributing to disease spread.

Using data from Cook County Jail, in Chicago, Illinois, one of the largest known nodes of SARS-CoV-2 spread, we analyze the relationship between jailing practices and community infections at the zip-code level. We find that jail cycling is a significant predictor of SARS-CoV-2 infection, accounting for 55 percent of the variance in case rates across zip codes in Chicago and 37 percent in Illinois.

By comparison, jail cycling far exceeds race, poverty, public transit utilization, and population density as a predictor of variance. The data suggest that cycling through Cook County Jail alone is associated with 15.7 percent of all documented novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Illinois and 15.9 percent in Chicago as of April 19, 2020.

Our findings support arguments for reduced reliance on incarceration and for related justice reforms both as emergency measures during the present pandemic and as sustained structural changes vital for future pandemic preparedness and public health. 

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