When COVID-19 started spreading in March 2020, the situation in Pennsylvania prisons was left in the shadows. County jails were not required to publish data on infections and deaths, leaving worried families wondering whether their incarcerated loved ones were at risk. Prisons in rural areas without a local newspaper or television station–the main information source for outbreaks in jails–were especially in the dark.
The Prison Society launched our COVID-19 tracking map to shine a light on how the pandemic was affecting prisons and jails. It was the only resource that provided a statewide picture of the virus’ spread in correctional facilities and brought together information for each of Pennsylvania’s 23 state prisons and 62 county jails.
With the pandemic behind us, we are now officially retiring the tracking map. It will no longer be updated, but will remain on our website as an archive with a trove of information on COVID-19’s impact on Pennsylvania prisons and jails. The maps display the cumulative number of infections and deaths in state prisons and the change in county jail population over the course of the pandemic. Clicking on counties links to a fact sheet that aggregates Covid-related news coverage of the county jail.
The Covid tracking project helped us realize that the need for basic information about prisons extends beyond the pandemic. As we retire the tracking map, we look forward to launching a new interactive map with essential information about county jails. Like the COVID-19 map, it will be the only resource to bring information about jail population, staffing numbers, family visits, and other timely issues together in one easy-to-use visual interface.
Stay tuned for an announcement when the map goes live this fall.