COVID-19 community spread and consequences for prison case rates

Katherine LeMasters, Shabbar Ranapurwala, Morgan Maner, Kathryn M. Nowotny, Meghan Peterson, Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background COVID-19 and mass incarceration are closely intertwined with prisons having COVID-19 case rates much higher than the general population. COVID-19 has highlighted the relationship between incarceration and health, but prior work has not explored how COVID-19 spread in communities have influenced case rates in prisons. Our objective was to understand the relationship between COVID-19 case rates in the general population and prisons located in the same county. Methods Using North Carolina’s (NC) Department of Health and Human Services data, this analysis examines all COVID-19 tests conducted in NC from June-August 2020. Using interrupted time series analysis, we assessed the relationship between substantial community spread (50/100,000 detected in the last seven days) and active COVID-19 case rates (cases detected in the past 14 days/100,000) within prisons. Results From June-August 2020, NC ordered 29,605 tests from prisons and detected 1,639 cases. The mean case rates were 215 and 427 per 100,000 in the general and incarcerated population, respectively. Once counties reached substantial COVID-19 spread, the COVID-19 prison case rate increased by 118.55 cases per 100,000 (95% CI: -3.71, 240.81). Conclusions Community COVID-19 spread contributes to COVID-19 case rates in prisons. In counties with prisons, community spread should be closely monitored. Stringent measures within prisons (e.g., vaccination) and decarceration should be prioritized to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0266772
JournalPloS one
Issue number4 April
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'COVID-19 community spread and consequences for prison case rates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this