COVID-19 DEATHS IN US PRISONS AND JAILS HAVE SURPASSED DECADES OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT TOTALS

Re-post, originally posted by American Litigation Consultant, LLC

November 13, 2020


The new death penalty: COVID has now killed more US prisoners than capital punishment over last three decades.


I am sad to report that we have passed yet another milestone in COVID prisoner deaths, which prompts another one of my series of “new death penalty” posts. The Marshall Project continues the critical job of counting via this webpage of deaths from coronavirus reported among prisoners, and as of Thursday, November 12, this accounting had tabulated “at least 1412 deaths from coronavirus reported among prisoners.”

As I have said in other posts, this considerable and ever-growing number is sad and disconcerting on its own terms, but it is even more remarkable given that it now amounts to more than the total number of prisoner deaths resulting from carrying out formal death sentences in the United States for the entire period from 1990 to 2020. According to DPIC data, there were a total of 1406 executions from the start of 1990 through today.

Of course, as I have mentioned before, comparing capital punishment and COVID incarceration carnage is problematic in many ways. All persons executed in the US in recent times have been convicted of the most aggravated forms of murder. The vast majority of prisoners to die of COVID were not criminally responsible for a death (although, as noted here, some persons on California’s death row are part of the COVID prisoner death count). In a few older posts here and here, I noted that nearly half of the early reported deaths of federal prisoners involved individuals serving time for drug crimes.

Another problem with comparing capital punishment and COVID incarceration carnage relates to that correctional staff do not die from administering capital punishment, but many have died from COVID. The Marshall Project reports “at least 93 deaths from coronavirus reported among prison staff.” I am still pleasantly surprised that this too-big number is not even larger, but I will be ever troubled by the thought that all these COVID casualty numbers could have been lower if more aggressive depopulation efforts were taken to move the most vulnerable and least risky persons out of the super-spreader environment that prisons represent.

A few of many prior related posts:

The new death penalty: COVID has now killed as many US prisoners as has a quarter century of capital punishment (from October 2020)
The new death penalty: COVID has now killed more US prisoners in months than the US death penalty has in the last two decades (from August 2020)
The new death penalty: COVID has now killed more US prisoners in weeks than the US death penalty has in over a decade (from May 2020)
The new death penalty: COVID has now killed more than 500 US prisoners and prison staff according to UCLA Law data (from May 2020)
The new death penalty: COVID now a leading modern killer of California inmates on death row
From drug sentences to death sentences: documenting arbitrary and capricious drug war casualties
Memorializing more drug war casualties: updating the federal drug sentences that COVID-19 turned into death sentences.

While the BOP is doing its best to address this pandemic, Congress and the Senate need to do more to ensure that people convicted of victimless crimes like non-violent drug offenders need to be sent home where they can be monitored via GPS. This will reduce the prison population dramatically and save lives. We encourage everyone involved from inmates, to BOP staff members to write your representatives and place the foregoing facts before them. Stay Safe.

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