Can the largest prison system in the world contain COVID-19?

The U.S. has the largest prison system in the world and now it's battling COVID-19.

Housing about two million inmates a day, with the highest per-capita incarceration rate, U.S. prisons and jails are overcrowded and often lacking in ideal sanitary conditions.

Now many of these jails and prisons are reporting cases of COVID-19.

Rikers Island, a notorious prison in New York City, reported its first case last week.

Now the city is planing to release about 300 nonviolent inmates.

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, these prisoners have sentences of less than a year and were guilty of misdemeanor charges.

Jails in California, Texas and other states are doing the same, releasing low-level offenders and elderly or sick inmates. Visitations have also been suspended in efforts to contain the virus within jails and prisons.

Prison staff in several states have also tested positive for COVID-19.


Facilities are sanitizing buses, restraints and housing units more and screening employees and prison transfers.

Criminal-justice reform advocate groups say that’s not enough. Many are calling for more early releases and asking the federal government to step in.

As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. increase, is the U.S. doing enough to protect inmates, prison staff and their families?

Shon Hopwood, a Georgetown University Law Professor and Criminal Justice Reform advocate, breaks down how COVID-19 will impact the U.S. prison system and why it matters.