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Our survey of all 50 states and the BOP reveals that prisons make it hard for people to qualify as indigent—and even those who do qualify receive limited resources.

by Tiana Herring, November 18, 2021

Many people in prison struggle to purchase basic hygiene supplies, stamps, and other necessities of incarcerated life—thanks in part to the low wages they made before entering prison1 and the mere pennies they earn working behind bars. Most prison systems claim to provide assistance to people who are extremely poor (or, in correctional policy terms, “indigent”). However, our new survey reveals that these “indigence policies” are extremely limited—both in who they help, and the amount of assistance provided.

We found that in almost every state2 and the federal prison system, incarcerated people must maintain extremely low balances in their “inmate trust funds”3 before receiving any help with essential items like soap and stamps. And being deemed indigent is only half of the battle, as many states provide very few resources even to those who do qualify. What’s more, in 18 states, the assistance given to indigent people is actually treated as a loan they must repay if their account balance ever goes up, meaning that people are required to go into debt for access to basic necessities.

We gathered information on indigence policies in all 50 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons by looking through state departments of corrections’ websites and contacting public information officers in each system. Here, we offer answers to two questions:

  1. How is indigence is defined in each state?
  2. What items or services are supposed to be provided to indigent incarcerated people, according to state policies?
Map showing how people quilify as indigent

 

Most states have very narrow definitions of who qualifies as “indigent”

We were able to find a definition for indigence in 41 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The remaining nine states did not have easily accessible definitions online, and were not able to provide us with the requested information when asked. The lack of transparency is disappointing, and makes it difficult to hold prisons accountable for doing the bare minimum to support the poorest incarcerated people. Worse, this inability to produce policy information may be an indication that some states do not have indigence policies, meaning extremely poor incarcerated people in these states might not receive any assistance at all.

Every single department of corrections with an indigence policy requires people to have very little money before they can qualify. The monetary thresholds for indigence status range from a low of $0 (meaning that people with $1 to their name would not be considered indigent) to a maximum of $25. Over half of states have their limits set between $0 and $10. Additionally, most states require that people keep these low balances for at least a month before qualifying. If someone does get money added to their account that exceeds the indigence limit, they lose their indigence status and have to wait before they can be considered indigent again. In New Mexico, for example, an incarcerated person must have $0 in their account for a month before they qualify as indigent. Going so long with such low account balances means that people are surviving on severely limited access to food4 and basic necessities like toilet paper. While 30 days was the most common wait time – and certainly too long to have to wait for soap and envelopes to write home – Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Utah all require people to wait even longer, from 45 to 90 days.5

These arbitrary limits on the amount of money people can have means that people can lose their “indigence” status—and therefore their access to necessary supplies—just because they received a small deposit from a family member or for working a prison job. Many indigence policies specifically prohibit deposits and income of any amount in their definitions. For example, an incarcerated person in Maryland making 15 cents an hour for their labor can’t qualify for indigence status; while $0.15 an hour will hardly make someone rich, people are not allowed to work and receive free access to indigent supplies. These policies often ignore that many incarcerated people have automatic deductions taken from any money deposited into their accounts, including for fines and fees, involuntary savings funds, or repaying the department of corrections for items they received previously while considered indigent.

We also found that four states put additional work-related requirements on who can qualify for indigence, by limiting the status to those who are incapable of working, are “involuntarily unemployed,” or are actively seeking work.

The fact that free basic supplies are provided only to the poorest people—and not to all incarcerated people for free by default—fits with correctional trends of shifting the costs of incarceration onto incarcerated people and their families, as also evidenced through the rise of paid services like tablets and phone calls.

 
 

The services offered to indigent people vary from state to state, but they are always very limited

The most common items provided to indigent incarcerated people are hygiene kits6 and supplies for sending a limited number of letters to loved ones; the number of free letters allowed range from one per month in Ohio to seven per week in Maryland. Legal mail is also mentioned in many policies, though departments of corrections are more likely to require repayment for these mailings. In some states, people have to choose between using their mail supplies for personal or legal mail, as they aren’t always considered separate services.

Eighteen states require indigent people to pay the department of corrections back for at least some of the services they receive while deemed indigent. In at least seven states, correctional agencies don’t appear to offer any services or supplies for free without the expectation of repayment. The Department of Corrections in Washington State, for example, covers the cost of mailing up to 10 letters per month for indigent incarcerated people. However, if the indigent person ever loses their indigence status, the department will recoup the costs for any letters previously mailed for free by deducting money from their “inmate trust accounts.” In states with repayment policies, the only way for the poorest incarcerated people to stay out of debt is to simply not write letters to their families, despite the fact that communication is crucial for maintaining family ties and increasing the chance of success upon release.

 
 

Every prison system can—and should—do more

Every indigence policy we looked at could be improved, but some states have implemented a few decent practices (at no cost to incarcerated people or their families) that others could consider adopting:

  • Seven states allow indigent incarcerated people and their families the opportunity—though often very limited—to communicate via phone calls, video calls, email, or texts free of charge.7
  • Seven states clearly state that feminine hygiene products are provided to those who need them, free of charge.8
  • Seven states specify that toilet paper is provided to indigent incarcerated people for free.9
  • New Jersey provides indigent incarcerated people with a $15 monthly allowance for commissary, which is important for access to food and basic necessities.
  • California’s code of regulations prohibits charging indigent incarcerated people for mailing services they received while considered indigent (including the cost of materials, copying, and postage) if they lose indigent status.

Stringent indigence policies punish the poorest people in prison by severely limiting the amount of money people can have and still receive free services, dictating how they can spend the little money they do have, and making them wait weeks in extreme poverty before offering help. All incarcerated people deserve, at minimum, access to hygiene items and ways to communicate with loved ones without having to take on even more debt.

 
 

Footnotes

  1. Incarcerated people had a median annual income prior to incarceration that was 41% lower than non-incarcerated people of similar ages. Unfortunately, this national data is not available for individual states.  ↩

  2. All states that have indigency policies require unreasonably low balances, but nine states did not share them with us, and therefore may not provide any support to people unable to purchase necessities.  ↩

  3. The term “inmate trust fund” – also called a “trust account”—is a term of art in the correctional sector, referring to a pooled bank account that holds funds for incarcerated people whose individual balances are sometimes treated as subaccounts. The term “trust” is used because the correctional facility typically holds the account as trustee, for the benefit of the individual beneficiaries (or subaccount holders).  ↩

  4. Prison cafeterias often serve small portions of unappealing, nutrient deficient foods. As a result, most of the money people spend in the commissary goes toward purchasing extra food. Formerly incarcerated people who had little outside financial support report that they experienced constant hunger and a variety of health issues as a result.  ↩

  5. While some departments of corrections may feel wait times are necessary to prevent people from manipulating account balances to receive indigence status, long wait times create unnecessary delays in needed assistance.  ↩

  6. What’s included in hygiene kits varies by state but generally they include soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and shaving equipment.  ↩

  7. These states include Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  ↩

  8. These states include Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  ↩

  9. These states include California, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.  ↩

 
 

Appendix

State How is indigence defined? What is provided for free to the indigent? Does the DOC expect repayment? If so, for what? Relevant policy numbers, documents, or other sources
Alabama “An inmate who is found to be financially unable to pay the co-pay and so is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis. For the assessment of medical co-pay charges, an inmate who maintains less than an average daily balance of twenty-dollars ($20.00) on his/her ITF account for the past ninety (90) days AND who has not received gross receipts totaling more than one hundred dollars ($100.00) during the past ninety (90) days will be considered indigent.” Medical co-pays. No AR-703 and AR-703-1
Alaska “A prisoner who has less than $20 presently available in his or her account and who has had no more than $50 in his or her account during the preceding 30 days. A prisoner with more than $50 in his or her account during the preceding 30 days will still be considered indigent if no more than $50 remained after mandatory deductions (restitution, fines, child support enforcement orders, violent crime compensation payments, or civil judgments, e.g.) or deductions made for educational materials or courses, counseling, or health care.” Mail up to 5 pieces of mail per week, weighing up to two pounds each; each facility has a system allowing indigent people to obtain hygiene items through commissary. Yes. Costs related to legal copies and photocopies of personal materials need to be paid back. 806.02, 808.12, and 810.03
Arizona “One whose account balance is $12.00 or less and has not exceeded this amount during the previous 30 days.” Mail up to three letters per week by first class mail; healthcare supplies. No. Constituent Services Informational Handbook and ADCRR Glossary of Terms
Arkansas “Must be at the unit for 30 days, have less than $10 on account plus have received less than $10 on account in the immediate preceding 30 days.” People considered indigent receive an unspecified amount of money every 30 days that can be used to purchase commissary items. No. Inmate Handbook
California “An inmate in a state prison who has maintained an inmate trust account with $25 or less for 30 consecutive days.” Products for washing hands, bathing, oral hygiene, and other personal hygiene including but not limited to: soap, toothpaste or toothpowder, toothbrush, and toilet paper; writing paper, envelopes, a writing implement, and postage required for five 1-ounce first-class letters per week; an unspecified number of envelopes (metered) if housed in a behavioral management unit; notarized documents free of charge; necessary duplication of printed forms and other written or typed materials, special paper, envelopes, and postage for mailing to the courts; may receive donated, working tv sets; free unlimited mail to any court or attorney general’s office; indigent inmates shall have property shipped to an address of their choosing at the CDCR’s expense; for third level appeals, indigent inmates shall not be required to divide their appeal into separate mailings to conform to indigent mail weight restrictions; free copying and postage of legal documents required by the court, plus one copy for the opposing party and one copy for the inmate’s records. Yes. If an indigent incarcerated person wants funds for a hobby they can request a handicraft loan. The loan will be considered uncollectable if they are paroled or discharged from CDCR. AB 2533, NCR 20-02, an email exchange with CDCR on 10/8/2021, and the following policies in the CDCR Operations Manual: 14010.21, 52051.17, 54010.5, 54010.5.2, 54010.5.3, 54030.13.3, 54100.6, 62060.7, and 101050.4.4.
Colorado “An offender with no funds or source of income.” Mail one letter per week, contingent upon funding; basic hygiene kits which include soap, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, denture cleaner and adhesives, and shaving equipment; if the administrative head deems there are compelling circumstances, they can ask the state to pay for a phone call which will go on their chronological record and be supervised; may place collect calls. No. 850.11 and an email exchange with CDOC on 10/26/2021.
Connecticut “Less than $5.00 in their account for the previous 90 days.” Personal hygiene items including shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and toothbrush, comb, disposable razor, sanitary napkins/tampons; underwear and footwear; writing materials including writing instrument and up to 20 sheets of paper for courts and attorneys per month; mail two social letters per week and five privileged letters per month; sick call fees. No. Family and Friends Handbook, Inmate Handbooks, and an email exchange with CT DOC on 10/12/2021.
Delaware “An indigent offender has an established pattern of insufficient funds, in his/her Trust Fund Account, averaging less than $10 per day in a rolling 30-day period, with which to pay for supplies such as basic personal hygiene items, writing materials, postage, and legal copies.” None. Yes. Indigent people must repay the costs of hygiene items, writing materials, postage, legal copies, and release clothing and gate money. The Department of Corrections should be reimbursed when capable, and a negative balance remains on books until satisfied, even post release. (source. DE DOC) Email exchange with DEDOC on 10/29/2021.
Federal “An inmate without funds (indigent inmate) is an inmate who has not had a trust fund account balance of $6.00 for the past 30 days.” No health care service fee; given over the counter medications at the institution pharmacy; provided oral hygiene products; if transferring from one facility to another, and they own something that can be transferred, the facility may cover the cost of stamps to complete the transfer. No. P6031.02, P6541.02, 6400.03, and 5800.18
Florida Indigence definition not available. Paper and writing utensils to prepare legal papers. No. Rule 33-601.800
Georgia “An offender may be classified as indigent for purposes of this SOP, if account records indicate that their Inmate Trust Account has less than ten dollars ($10.00) on the date of the offender’s request to use funds. Frozen funds will not be counted for these purposes.” None. Yes. Costs incurred for postage and correspondence materials must be paid back. 406.19 and an email exchange with GDC on 10/11/2021.
Hawaii “An inmate with less than $10.00 of income in her/her spendable account at the time of his/her request.” Postage and supplies for three privileged letters per week, and one official or personal letter per week; one phone call per week. Yes. Services such as court actions requiring filing fees and notary services will be paid for but debited to the inmate account and deducted when moneys are entered into their inmate trust account. COR.15.02 and an email exchange with Hawaii DPS on 10/8/2021.
Idaho “An inmate who has been housed at an IDOC correctional facility (including a contract facility) for 30 consecutive days and whose trust account has a balance of less than $0.15 and has had no deposits for 30 consecutive days. If the inmate is paroled or released and returns to the IDOC as an inmate, the 30-day clock starts over. If the inmate is transported to another facility, hospital, county jail, or out of state the inmate retains indigent status upon return to an IDOC facility provided the inmate did not receive any deposits in the meantime.” Hygiene items issued once per week upon request, including soap, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a disposable razor; materials (4 sheets of paper, one envelope, a writing instrument) and postage for one personal letter per week; one additional mail envelope per week for confidential correspondence; envelopes, postage, and photocopies for legal mail. Materials for legal mail include 25 sheets of paper, envelopes, and black ink pen; If diagnosed with gender dysphoria, state will issue appropriate undergarments; eyeglass replacements if necessary; over the counter medication if approved by health care provider. No. 402.02.01.001, 306.02.01.001, and an email exchange with IDOC on 10/14/2021.
Illinois Illinois had three different definitions in the same document. 1. “Anyone not receiving offender pay due to restitution owed to the court, corrections, etc.” 2. “no money on his account, no state pay and no money coming in” 3. (for medical care) “one who’s Trust Fund balance [does not] exceed $20.00 on the date of service, or at any time with the preceding 30 days prior to service.” Hygiene kit including soap, toothpaste, and toothbrush; waived fee processing fee for accessing criminal history record; medical copays. No. Orientation Manual
Indiana “An offender who has a Trust Fund account balance of less than fifteen dollars ($15.00) on the day of request and has not had a total of more than fifteen dollars ($15.00) credited to the trust fund account in the preceding thirty (30) days.” Hygiene kit including toothbrush, toothpaste or powder, denture cleaner and adhesive, comb, bath soap, deodorant (or soap with deodorant), shampoo, and shaving supplies; mailing legal documents; copies of legal documents. No. 02-01-104 and 00-01-102
Iowa “An offender who has less than $6.00 in their account, has not exceeded a $6.00 balance in their account in the last thirty days, and whose net revenue has not exceeded $6 in the last thirty days.” Up to $3.50 credit to purchase supplies for legal correspondence; certain hygiene items, to be determined by each facility. No. AD-GA-16, IO-OR-05, and AD-FM-11
Kansas “An inmate whose inmate bank account during the previous month has a cumulative spendable amount of less than $12.00. The cumulative spendable amount shall be determined by adding all deposits made during the month to the beginning account balance and subtracting fines, fees, restitution, garnishments, forced savings, and payments or encumbrances for court filing fees applied during the month. Amounts voluntarily withdrawn from the inmate’s account shall not be subtracted from the sum of the beginning balance and deposits.” An electric fan If they’re in a unit without appropriate circulation; basic personal hygiene items including toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, comb or pick, and soap; a pencil, writing paper, envelopes, and postage for four first class, one ounce, domestic letters per month. No. 12-127, 12-128A, and Inmate Trust Account FAQs
Kentucky “An inmate who has maintained a balance in his inmate account and media account for a combined total of $5.00 or less for thirty (30) days prior to requesting indigent status.” Postage and stationery sufficient to send two letters weighing one ounce or less per week; “reasonable amounts” of legal supplies, postage, and copying services as necessary. No. 14.4, 15.7, and 16.2.
Louisiana Indigence definition not available. Unknown. Unknown. None.
Maine “Has a zero balance in their account at the facility and has no funds in a personal savings account or investment at the time of making a request for free privileged mail, free legal photocopies, or free basic hygiene.” Writing supplies and postage for at least four, one ounce, first class letters per week; basic hygiene items; writing supplies and postage for the purpose of corresponding with attorneys, courts, and the MDOC inspection division (no limit); commissary items that are authorized by the administrator; free photocopies of court filings; if they have access to tablets they are given 20 free text messages per week. Yes. A resident with no more than $10 dollars is provided phone call minutes of up to $2.50 per week (the phone charge is 9 cents a minute) and must pay this back if they become able to within six months. For medical care, there is a statute which requires a $5.00 co-pay for some services. If a resident has less than $15, this co-pay is waived, and it must be paid back if they become able to within six months. Detention and Correctional Standards for Maine Counties and Municipalities and an email exchange with MDOC on 10/14/2021.
Maryland “An inmate who, within the previous 2 weeks, has not received pay for an assignment in work or school, and who has less than $2 in his or her spending account, or an inmate received within the previous 2 weeks who has not had $2 in his or her spending account.” Hygiene items including a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, soap, shaving cream, disposable razor, deodorant, and shampoo; writing instrument, paper, envelopes, and postage for seven letters per week No. COMAR 12.02.20.01, OPS.250.0001, PATX.175-0002, and an email exchange with Maryland DPSCS on 10/8/2021.
Massachusetts “(a) At the time of the request, the inmate has, in all accounts to which he or she has access, a total amount less than or equal to $10.00 plus the cost or fees sought to be waived; and (b) At no time for the 60 days immediately preceding said request, have the inmate’s accounts contained more than $10.00 plus the cost or fees sought to be waived. (e.g. request to waiver $5.00 on July 1, 2015; indigent if, at no time since May 1, 2015, total in accounts has been more than $15.00). In addition to 103 CMR 481.05. Indigent Inmate(a) or (b), the Superintendent may in his or her discretion, designate an inmate as indigent if the inmate has less than $2.00 in his or her account at the time of the request, or in other circumstances as he or she deems appropriate.” Three one-ounce, first class letters per week; unlimited number of letters of any weight to any court official. No. 103 CMR 481.00
Michigan “1. The prisoner’s available account balance (on the first day of the calendar month preceding application) plus gross receipts (total receipts received in the calendar month preceding application) did not equal or exceeded $11.00 except as follows. a. If funds are received that are designated for release planning or for medical or educational expenses, those funds shall not be used in the calculation. b. If there is a hold placed on funds that are subject to a hearing (e.g., Health Care co-pay, restitution, error correct), those funds would not be included in the prisoner’s beginning available account balance. c. If the prisoner is subject to IRS federal tax withholding, then receipts shall be determined before the tax has been withheld. AND 2. The prisoner has no known cashable savings bonds.” None. Yes. Indigent people will be provided with a loan (equal to $11.00 minus whatever they have in their account) to be able to purchase health care products, over the counter personal care products, and hygiene products. They will also be loaned the amount necessary for up to 10 stamps per month. 04.02.120
Minnesota “An offender who currently has less than $1.00 in the spending account, less than $1.00 in the voluntary savings account, has not made any canteen purchases for the past 14 days and has not had any withdrawal requests processed for the past 14 days or has not transferred to another facility within the past 14 days.” Materials for mailing services including one pen as needed and 35 sheets of writing paper per week; one first class (maximum weight 13 ounces) postage-paid large (9.5″ x 12.5″) envelope per week; two first class (maximum weight 13 ounces) postage paid business size envelopes per week (up to 4″ x 9.5″); A total of 35 sheets of legal and medical record photocopies per week; One over the counter medication from canteen per week; Laundry soap and personal care items including such examples as toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, comb, deodorant, soap, shampoo, dental floss loops, and (if wearing dentures) denture cleaner and medically-authorized adhesive as allowed on the MINNCOR restricted centralized canteen catalog. Yes. If someone can’t pay for medical care or is indigent, the department of corrections will either find a way to get payment later or waive the fees. 300.140 and the Medical and Nursing Services Fact Sheet
Mississippi Medical Definition: “not having sufficient funds to pay the assessed fee at the time of receipt of health-care services.” Mail Definition: “An indigent inmate is defined as one who is without funds and has maintained the balance of less than a first class stamp or less for 30 consecutive days preceding the requested mailing.” None. Yes. Indigent people are required to pay health care related costs at a later time. Similarly, indigent people can mail legal documents after proving it’s for pending litigation but the department of corrections will give them a negative balance in their account for the postage. Inmate Handbook
Missouri Indigence definition not available. Unknown. Unknown. None.
Montana “1. The offender has received or spent less than $15 in the previous month. 2. The offender has less than $15 in his or her account at the previous month’s end. 3. The offender has less than $15 on his or her account at the time of verification. 4. The request form must be filled out completely and clearly written. 5. The facility resident account representative must receive the request no later than the second business day of each month.” An indigent inmate package which includes hygiene items, paper, envelopes, writing instruments, and postage (for writing and mailing legal documents). No. DOC 4.1.4, DOC 3.3.6, and an email exchange with MDOC on 11/3/2021.
Nebraska “Those who have not had a balance of $10.00 or more in their institutional and/or regular savings account during the past thirty days.” Five first-class, U.S. postage embossed envelopes per month or the equivalent in metered mail to send letters in order to maintain community ties; hygiene products including soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste or powder, a comb, toilet paper, special hygiene items for female inmates, shaving equipment upon request, denture cleaner and adhesive; each month indigent incarcerated people can choose either five stamps for mail or $2.50 debit calling time. No. 205.01, 205.03, and 111.01
Nevada “Inmates whose trust account balance is $10 or less for the entire previous month.” legal supplies (white bond paper, paper, carbon paper, envelopes, pens, 1 fire proof box) once a month; one blue pen per month; two envelopes and four sheets of paper per week. Yes. Indigent people can use as much legal postage as they need but will have to pay it back. Co-pays and other services for which inmates cannot pay must be paid back eventually. AR 722, NDOC Glossary, and an email exchange with NDOC on 10/13/2021.
New Hampshire Indigence definition not available. Limited amounts of typing paper and envelopes for use only on their case. No. Manual for the Guidance of Inmates
New Jersey “An inmate who has no funds in his or her account and is not able to earn inmate wages due to prolonged illness or any other uncontrollable circumstances, and who has been verified as having no outside source from which to obtain funds.” Photocopying services, including legal materials; personal hygiene items including soap, toothbrush, toothpaste or powder, a comb, toilet paper, shaving equipment, and products for special hygiene needs of females; $15 per month for commissary; they’re not charged for services such as legal mail, legal copies, medical copays, etc. No. 10A-31, Inmate Handbook, and an email exchange with NJDOC on 10/12/2021.
New Mexico “Their trust fund account has been without funds or activity for a period of one (1) month prior to his/her request for such items.” State-issued underwear, shoes, uniforms, blankets, pillows, towels, etc.; two first class letters per week; a reasonable amount of postage for legal purposes; free paper and pens; one free call per week and one free video call per week; two hygiene packs per week that include toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant and they can request more if needed. No. CD-151200, CD-151100, CD-150200, and a phone call with NMCD on 10/14/2021.
New York Indigence definition not available. Unknown. Yes. Costs incurred for legal mail postage must be paid back. 2788
North Carolina “An offender is considered indigent if they have no money to purchase basic hygiene items such as soap or deodorant.” Up to 10 stamps per month for 1-ounce personal letters. This stamp limit does not apply to mail relating to legal matters; basic hygiene items every 30 days; upon release, they receive $45 in gate money if they have served two consecutive years of a felony sentence; upon release, they are given the cost of a bus ticket if they do not have at least 5 times the cost of the ticket in their offender banking account on their release; prior to release, DOC helps them with opening a bank account, visiting the local housing authority to find a place to live, obtain a driver’s license from DMV or birth certificate from the NC Vital Records Office. They also try to transfer them closer to home when possible so family can pick them up. No. Handbook for Family and Friends of Offenders and an email exchange with NCDPS on 10/8/2021.
North Dakota “You must have received $15.00 or less of spendable money each month. This includes spending balances carried over from the previous month. You must be actively seeking a job and cannot have quit a job, refused to work, or have been fired from a job or work assignment within the past 30 days.” Up to $4 credit per month for legal copies, legal postage, and regular or personal postage; basic hygiene; writing materials; DOC may waive the copay for oral surgery; costs covered for glasses every two years; two free 15 minute phone calls per month to contact their children and two free video visitation sessions per month to individuals actively working toward family reunification within their case plan; hearing aid batteries (hearing aids are given to anyone who needs them); if PCP approves, they may be provided over the counter medication. Yes. If the $4 credit for legal copies, legal postage, and regular or personal postage is exhausted, money is taken from their “release aid account.” Any money spent beyond that available balance is recorded as a debt. Inmate Handbook and an email exchange with NDDOCR on 10/8/2021.
Ohio “An inmate is considered indigent if, during the 30 days immediately preceding the request, the inmate has earned or received less than $12.00 and, if the inmate’s account balance has not exceeded $12.00 at any time during the thirty (30) days immediately preceding the request. In the case of an inmate who has been incarcerated for less than thirty (30) days, the inmate is considered indigent if the inmate’s account balance has not exceeded $12.00 at any time during the period of incarceration.” Legal kit including two large manilla envelopes, one black ink pen, five sheets of carbon paper, 40 sheets of white bond or copy paper, and one white writing-paper tablet from the library every 30 days; first class mail to courts of law; one free stamped envelope per month; hygiene kit provided weekly that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, comb or pick, razor, deodorant, and 2 boxes sanitary napkins and/or tampons for people entering women facilities; Eight free electronic mail stamps per month for outbound email only, which includes videograms and attachments. No. 59-LEG-01, 61-PRP-02, 75-MAL-01, and an email exchange with ODRC on 10/8/2021.
Oklahoma “An inmate is considered indigent if the total of their end of day available balance and all voluntary withdrawals for the last 30 days does not exceed $10.50. a. Any disbursements, cash draws, canteen sales or similar transactions will count as a “voluntary” except disbursements for birth certificates. b. Co-pays, court costs, fines, fees, institutional debt and similar transactions will not count towards the $10.50 “voluntary” withdrawals. The available balance is checked for being over the $10.50 limit after these collections are made. If co-pays, court costs, fines, fees, institutional debt, and similar mandatory collections collect all but $10.50 of the funds that an inmate receives in their available balance and the inmate would otherwise be indigent the inmate is still indigent.” Two one-ounce privileged or non-privileged letters per week; personal hygiene items including soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste or powder, denture cleaner and adhesive, comb, toilet paper, razors, sanitary napkins/tampons (for females), and deodorant; if someone has a fan or tv confiscated it may be given to an indigent person instead of being auctioned. No. OP-120230 and OP-030117
Oregon “Two categories of inmates will qualify for indigent status. (a) A Priority Legal User who is without sufficient funds in the inmate’s trust account to pay for the costs of necessary supplies, photocopies and mailing services at the time of the request will be provided necessary supplies, photocopies, and mailing services notwithstanding the inmate’s indigent status in accordance with these rules. (b) A General Legal User with an imminent Court Deadline who can demonstrate the inability to acquire funds or purchase necessary supplies or mailing services within the court deadline will be provided necessary supplies, photocopies and mailing services notwithstanding the inmate’s indigent status in accordance with these rules.” Additional storage units for storage of legal material in their living quarters; envelopes for necessary court filings. Yes. Indigent people may be provided with photocopies, supplies, and mailing services but their accounts will be charged and they will have to pay the state back. The same is true for those requesting copies of their own records (medical, dental, psychiatric, etc.) 291-139-0180, 291-117-0100, 291-139-0130, and 291-037-0020
Pennsylvania “An inmate for whom the combined balances of his/her facility account and any other accounts are $10 or less at all times during the 30 days preceding the date on which the inmate submits a request to the person designated by the Facility Manager/designee. An inmate who refuses available work/school although he/she is physically able and not precluded from work/school by virtue of his/her housing status, is not indigent for the purposes of this policy and is not eligible for free stationery or to anticipate for postage. An inmate who is selfconfined may also be considered as refusing available work although physically able as determined by the Program Review Committee (PRC). Any inmate who has funds in another account, which if deposited in his/her facility account would bring his/her balance to more than $10, is not indigent. Any inmate who has not made a good faith effort to manage his/her money so as to be able to pay the necessary costs of litigation himself/herself is not indigent.” Stationery and a pen; up to $11 per month in copying and postage for legal mail charges; basic hygiene items. No. DC-ADM 803 and DC-ADM 815
Rhode Island “One who is involuntarily unemployed, has less than $10 in their active account, and has had no deposits of $10 or more in the previous two months.” An indigent kit every thirty days which includes 1 bottle of shampoo, one tube of shaving cream, two disposable razors, one writing pad, six #10 envelopes, one soap bar, one tube of toothpaste, one tooth brush, one writing pen, three two-packs of generic pain reliever, and one deoderant stick; three personal letters per week and legal mail. No. 2.25-03 DOC and an email exchange with RIDOC on 10/7/2021.
South Carolina “An inmate whose E.H. Cooper account’s balance and/or deposits for a 30 day period has not exceeded $6.42.” A pair of clogs or tennis shoes (bobos) for recreational purposes if their state-issued, job-specific shoes are not authorized for wear during recreational activities; a hygiene pack that includes three soaps, one pencil, one tube of toothpaste, one toothbrush, one deodorant, two envelopes, eight sheets of paper, two 3-in-1 gels for men or three 3-in-1 gels for women, four disposable razors, and a comb. No. ADM-16.08 and ADM-15.13
South Dakota “Their spend funds are less than $1.00; they have no commissary purchases in the last calendar month and had no deposits in the last calendar month.” Unknown. Yes. Indigent people receive items from “indigent commissary” every 30 days, and any items they accept will be debited with a credit obligation 1.2.E.1
Tennessee Indigence definition not available. Two postage stamps per pay period; first class postage for outgoing legal mail; religious materials if someone donates them (e.g., volunteers, outside clergy, or other outside organizations). No. 507.02, 118.01, and 507.03
Texas “When a TDCJ offender. (1) has less than a $5 balance in an inmate trust fund (ITF) account; (2) has a damaged or misplaced identification (ID) card; or (3) is on week one of lockdown status for more than seven consecutive days.” None. Yes. Indigent people can receive stationery and postage but it must be paid back when funds are placed into their accounts. The same is true for medical co-pays—they don’t have to pay upfront but the charges will accumulate and the DOC will expect payment whenever funds are placed in their accounts again. BP-03.91 and TDCJ Annual Health Care Services Fee Pamphlet
Utah “An inmate who has not had over nine dollars in his or her inmate account for 45 consecutive days may be eligible for indigent status.” Duplication of medical records; one first class, one-ounce envelope per week; personal hygiene items including a toothbrush every 3 months, toothpaste, soap, a small comb, and one disposable razor every week; duplication of legal records (up to 25 per week); writing materials including writing paper, envelopes, pencils and pens; I.D. cards (and they don’t have to pay for a replacement if it’s lost or stolen). No. Inmate Orientation Handbook and Inmate Health Care information page
Vermont Indigence definition not available. Socks and undergarments upon arrival; hygiene items; if someone orders something from commissary and is released before receiving the items, they may be donated to those who are indigent. No. Inmate Handbook
Virginia “An offender with less than $5.00 in their offender account for discretionary spending during the previous month and has no job or other source of income that provided as much as $5.00 during the previous month or an offender who is newly received into a facility and does not have available funds nor hygiene items.” Hygiene items including toothbrush, toothpaste, denture cleaner and adhesive, shampoo, deodorant, comb, razor, and bar soap; legal package including paper, pen, carbon paper, and manilla envelope; postage for one one-ounce, domestic, first class letter per week; $50 stipend each year for copies of offender notification information. Yes. If an indigent person participates in Ramadan or NOI Month of Fasting, they have to pay for their meal tray between dawn and sunset. The cost will be charged as a loan if they don’t have a sufficient amount to cover the cost. 050.1, 866.3, 802.2, and an email exchange with VADOC on 10/12/2021.
Washington “An inmate who has less than a twenty-five dollar balance of disposable income in his or her institutional account on the day a request is made to utilize funds and during the thirty days previous to the request.” None. Yes. Indigent people will not be denied access to personal hygiene items, or medical, dental, or mental health care but they will have to pay the money back once they have money available. Additionally any money spent on postage for regular and legal mail will also have to be paid back. RCW 72.09.015, DOC 440.080, WAC 137-48-060
West Virginia Indigence definition not available. Mail letters to attorneys or the courts using a stamped envelope; an “indigent package” (no further explanation provided). No. Offender Orientation Manual
Wisconsin Indigence definition not available. If they are transgender or intersex, they can ask the health services unit for Magic Shave without a copay; basic hygiene items; feminine hygiene products are free; free stamped envelope biweekly and two free phone calls per week; one free haircut per month; state issued shoes, clothing, linens, and towels; over the counter medication; state issued glasses if prescribed; free state-issued ID upon return to community. Yes. The DOC will loan up to $100 annually to indigent people for supplies, photocopies, and postage to allow them access to the courts for litigation related to their own cases. 500.70.27, 309.51.01, and an email exchange with WI DOC on 10/13/2021.
Wyoming “An inmate who has no source of income and no money on his/her account. Inmates who have twenty-five dollars ($25.00) or more credited to their account at any time in any given month from any source for discretionary spending shall not be considered indigent during that month regardless of their account balance at any time during that month.” Use of pens and paper when in the law library; replacement glasses; Hygiene items including soap, toilet paper, and a tooth brush, toothpaste, denture cleaner and adhesives, shaving equipment and “special hygiene needs.” Yes. Costs of mailings, printing, photocopying, and any indigent mail packets they are given will result in debt. They will accrue indebtness until they’ve reached 180 days of indigency, at which point there will not be additional charges for the subsequent period of consecutive indigence. If they receive outside money, up to 50% will be taken for reimbursement towards indigent indebtness. 3.401, 4.322, 4.201, and an email exchange with WY DOC on 10/15/2021.

We looked at all fifty state departments of corrections to figure out which companies hold the contracts to provide money-transfer services and what the fees are to use these services.

by Stephen Raher and Tiana Herring, November 9, 2021

As people in prison are increasingly expected to pay for everyday costs (food, hygiene items, correspondence, etc.), the mechanics of how people send money to incarcerated people assumes heightened importance. Family members used to mail a money order to a PO box, and a day or two later, the money would be in the recipient’s trust account.1 In those days, the most common complaint from family members and incarcerated recipients used to be about delays in processing money orders. Quick to use consumer psychology to turn a buck, a whole industry arose to provide faster–but vastly more expensive–electronic money transfers to incarcerated people.

This “correctional banking” industry includes specialized services like release cards, but at its core the industry makes money off the simple (but highly lucrative) business of facilitating transfers from friends and family members to incarcerated recipients. The industry relentlessly crows about the speed of electronic transfers, while conveniently glossing over the high fees that typically accompany these services. To get a better sense of the landscape, we looked at all fifty state departments of corrections and tried to figure out which companies (if any) hold the contract(s) to provide money-transfer services for each prison system. When possible, we tried to figure out what the fees are to use these services.

Below, we provide the results of our review, identify notable trends in this realm, and highlight steps families of people who are incarcerated, regulators, procurement officials, and companies can take to make money transfers more convenient, affordable, and easy to understand.


Table 1: Shows the results of a survey of all fifty state departments of corrections. The table shows which companies (if any) hold the contract(s) to provide money-transfer services for the system. Each agency name links to its policy.
Agency with link to policy Money-Transfer Vendor(s) Type of Vendor & Status of Competition Mailed Payments Allowed? Fee(s) for a $20 online transfer Fee(s) as percentage of amount transferred Fee(s) for a $50 online transfer Fee(s) as percentage of amount transferred
Alabama Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Yes $2.95 15% $5.95 12%
Alaska Department of Corrections None–DOC accepts mailed payments only N/A – handled in-house Required (no online option) N/A N/A
Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation & Reentry Securus (JPay), GTL, Keefe Multiple options No $0.95 (Keefe)/
$0.95 (JPay)/
$1.00 (GTL)
5% (all options) $5.95 (Keefe)/
$5.95 (JPay)/
$4.95 (GTL)
12% (Keefe)/
12% (JPay)/
10% (GTL)
Arkansas Department of Corrections In-house solution powered by Information Network of Arkansas (https://ina.arkansas.gov/); Access Corrections Multiple options (including in-house) Yes $2.00 (in-house)/
$1.75 (Access Corr)
10% (in-house)/
9% (Access)
$3.00 (in-house)/
$2.75 (Access Corr)
6% (both)
California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Securus (JPay), GTL, Access Corrections Multiple options Yes $1.95 (JPay)/
$3.95 (GTL)/
$3.50 (Access)
10% (JPay)/
20% (GTL)/
18% (Access)
$7.95 (JPay)/
$5.95 (GTL)/
$6.95 (Access)
16% (JPay)/
12% (GTL)/
14% (Access)
Colorado Department of Corrections Securus (JPay), GTL, Western Union Multiple options No $3.70 (JPay)/
$2.75 (GTL)/
$3.95 (WU)
19% (JPay)/
14% (GTL)/
20% (WU)
$6.70 (JPay)/
$4.75 (GTL)/
$6.95 (WU)
13% (JPay)/
10% (GTL)/
14% (WU)
Connecticut Department of Correction Securus (JPay), GTL (Touch Pay), Western Union Multiple options Yes $2.95 (JPay)/
$3.95 (WU)/
Touchpay unverifiable
15% (JPay)/
20% (WU)
$5.95 (JPay)/
$6.95 (WU)
12% (JPay)/
14% (WU)/
Touchpay unverifiable
Delaware Department of Correction DOC operates in-house N/A – handled in-house Required (no online option) N/A N/A
Florida Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $4.95 25% $8.95 18%
Georgia Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.50 18% $6.50 13%
Hawaii Department of Public Safety N/A – handled in-house Required (no online option) N/A N/A
Idaho Department of Correction Access Corrections Monopoly Yes $7.45 37% $7.45 15%
Illinois Department of Corrections Securus (JPay), GTL, Western Union Multiple options Yes $6.95 (JPay)/
$3.50 (GTL)/
$3.95 (WU)
35% (JPay)/
18% (GTL)/
20% (WU)
$7.95 (JPay)/
$5.75 (GTL)/
$6.95 (WU)
16% (JPay)/
12% (GTL)/
14% (WU)
Indiana Department of Correction GTL Monopoly Yes $2.20 11% $3.25 7%
Iowa Department of Corrections Securus (JPay), Access Corrections, Western Union Multiple options Yes $3.95 (JPay)/
$6.49(Access)/
$3.95 (WU)
20% (JPay)/
32% (Access)/
20% (WU)
$6.95 (JPay)/
$6.49(Access)/
$6.95 (WU)
14% (JPay)/
13% (Access)/
14% (WU)
Kansas Department of Corrections Securus (JPay), Access Corrections Multiple options Yes $6.70 (JPay)/
$6.70 (Access)
34% (JPay)/
34% (Access)
$6.70 (JPay)/
$6.70 (Access)
13% (JPay)/
13% (Access)
Kentucky Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Yes Data not available Data not available
Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.50 18% $6.50 13%
Maine Department of Corrections DOC operates in-house N/A – handled in-house Yes $2.40 12% $2.40 5%
Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services GTL Monopoly Yes Data not available Data not available
Massachusetts Department of Correction Access Corrections Monopoly Yes Data not available Data not available
Michigan Department of Corrections GTL Monopoly Yes $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Minnesota Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Mississippi Department of Corrections Premier Services (Cashless Systems, Inc.) Monopoly No $3.35 17% $5.95 12%
Missouri Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.99 20% $5.99 12%
Montana Department of Corrections DOC operates in-house N/A – handled in-house Yes N/A N/A
Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Securus (JPay) Monopoly Unclear $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Nevada Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Yes $6.95 35% $6.95 14%
New Hampshire Department of Corrections GTL Monopoly Yes Data not available Data not available
New Jersey Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $2.95 15% $6.95 14%
New Mexico Corrections Department N/A – handled in-house Required (no online option) N/A N/A
New York Department of Corrections & Community Supervision Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.99 20% $5.99 12%
North Carolina Department of Public Safety Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.45 17% $6.65 13%
North Dakota Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.90 20% $6.90 14%
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction GTL Monopoly Yes $3.50 18% $4.50 9%
Oklahoma Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Oregon Department of Corrections Securus (JPay), ICSolutions/Access Corrections Multiple options Yes $3.95 (JPay)/
$5.95 (ICS/Access)
20% (JPay)/
30% (ICS/Access)
$6.95 (JPay)/
$5.95 (ICS/Access)
14% (JPay)/
12% (ICS/Access)
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $1.75 9% $4.75 10%
Rhode Island Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Yes Data not available Data not available
South Carolina Department of Corrections GTL Monopoly Yes $4.00 20% $4.00 8%
South Dakota Department of Corrections JailATM Monopoly Yes $3.25 16% $5.00 10%
Tennessee Department of Correction Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $3.90 20% $6.90 14%
Texas Department of Criminal Justice Securus (JPay), GTL (TouchPay), Access Corrections, America’s Cash Express, eCommDirect (state-operated) Multiple options Yes Data not available Data not available
Utah Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Yes $6.95 35% $6.95 14%
Vermont Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Yes Data not available Data not available
Virginia Department of Corrections Securus (JPay) Monopoly Yes $2.95 15% $5.95 12%
Washington Department of Corrections Securus (JPay), Western Union Multiple options Yes $3.95 (JPay)/
$3.95 (WU)
20% (both) $7.95 (JPay)/
$5.95 (WU)
16% (JPay)/
12% (WU)
West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation GTL, JailATM Multiple options No $2.75 (GTL)/
JailATM unavailable
$3.75 (GTL)/
JailATM unavailable
Wisconsin Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Yes Data not available Data not available
Wyoming Department of Corrections Access Corrections Monopoly Unclear $5.95 30% $5.95 12%

 
 

Notable trends

Fees for prison money transfers are really high

We live in an age of financial technology (known as “fintech“), where people are accustomed to digitally sending or receiving money from friends and family at little or no cost. A service like Venmo allows no-fee personal transfers from bank accounts or debit cards (payments from a credit card are subject to a 3% fee). Other companies providing similar services charge roughly equivalent fees.2 We looked at 33 state prison systems where fee information was available. We found rates ranging from 5% to 37% for online transfers. The average fee is 19% for a $20 online transfer, with a slight decline for higher-dollar transfers (the average fee for a $50 transfer is 12%). Fees for phone or in-person payments (options more likely to appeal to low-income people without a bank account) were generally higher than for online payments. There is no reasonable explanation why prison money transfers are so much more expensive than regular “free world” services like Venmo.

A map showing fees for money transfers are unreasonably high

Three companies dominate the market

Three companies dominate the correctional money-transfer market, at least where prisons are concerned (it’s likely that there are smaller “fringe” players that provide this type of service to jails). The three dominant companies are JPay (a Securus subsidiary that was recently fined $6 million for improper practices in its release-card business), Global*Tel Link (which sometimes uses the tradename “Touchpay”), and Access Corrections.

A few smaller companies also appeared in our survey: a company called JailATM holds a couple of contracts (JailATM is also a minor player in the electronic messaging industry); commissary operator Keefe Group is one of three companies serving the Arizona prison system; and, a company called Cashless Systems, Inc., (a closely-held corporation operated out of a residence in Raleigh, North Carolina and doing business as Premier Services) holds the contract for Mississippi prisons.

There’s a little bit of competition

Most prisons pick one company that receives a monopoly on money-transfer services, but at least eleven states (22%) allow people to choose from two or more different companies.3 Prisons like to give monopoly contracts for things like phone service or operating the commissary. Administrators often cite security concerns as a justification for using only one company as a contractor. But this doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to money transfers, even though a brief review of corrections-department webpages reveals that prison officials have plenty of security concerns about money transfers.4 It’s telling that when it comes to facilitating the flow of money into prison, many corrections departments are suddenly open to competition.

A map showing most people in prison only have one option for money transfers

It’s unclear how much competition actually benefits consumers

We took a closer look at fees in states that offered more than one option, and found that those states had slightly lower money-transfer fees. For example, the 11 states with multiple options had an average fee of 16% for a $20 transfer, as opposed to an average of 20% in 26 states that issued monopoly contracts (see table 2).5 But this only tells a part of the story. In the states with more than one option, it can be extremely complicated for a consumer to figure out what the lowest-cost option is.

Table 2: Shows the lowest available online money-transfer fees in states that offered more than one option. When states had multiple vendors, we show the vendor with the lowest fee for $20 and $50 transfers. Each state name links to its policy.
State with link to policy Money-Transfer Vendor(s) Competition Lowest available fee ($20 deposit) Fee as percentage of amount transferred Lowest available fee ($50 deposit) Fee as percentage of amount transferred
Alabama Access Corrections Monpoly $2.95 15% $5.95 12%
Arizona Securus (JPay), GTL, Keefe Competitive $0.95 5% $4.95 10%
Arkansas In-house solution powered by Information Network of Arkansas (https://ina.arkansas.gov/); Access Corrections Competitive $1.75 9% $2.75 6%
California Securus (JPay), GTL, Access Corrections Competitive $1.95 10% $5.95 12%
Colorado Securus (JPay), GTL, Western Union Competitive $2.75 14% $4.75 10%
Connecticut Securus (JPay), GTL (Touch Pay), Western Union Competitive $2.95 15% $5.95 12%
Florida Securus (JPay) Monpoly $4.95 25% $8.95 18%
Georgia Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.50 18% $6.50 13%
Idaho Access Corrections/CashPayToday Monpoly $7.45 37% $7.45 15%
Illinois Securus (JPay), GTL, Western Union Competitive $3.50 18% $5.75 12%
Indiana GTL Monpoly $2.20 11% $3.25 7%
Iowa Securus (JPay), Access Corrections, Western Union Competitive $3.95 20% $6.49 13%
Kansas Securus (JPay), Access Corrections Competitive $6.70 34% $6.70 13%
Louisiana Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.50 18% $6.70 13%
Maine DOC operates in-house Monpoly $2.40 12% $6.70 13%
Michigan GTL Monpoly $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Minnesota Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Mississippi Premier Services (Cashless Systems, Inc.) Monpoly $3.35 17% $5.95 12%
Missouri Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.99 20% $5.99 12%
Nebraska Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Nevada Access Corrections Monpoly $6.95 35% $6.95 14%
New Jersey Securus (JPay) Monpoly $2.95 15% $6.95 14%
New York Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.99 20% $5.99 12%
North Carolina Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.45 17% $6.65 13%
North Dakota Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.90 20% $6.90 14%
Ohio GTL Monpoly $3.50 18% $4.50 9%
Oklahoma Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.95 20% $6.95 14%
Oregon Securus (JPay), ICSolutions/Access Corrections Competitive $3.95 20% $5.95 12%
Pennsylvania Securus (JPay) Monpoly $1.75 9% $4.75 10%
South Carolina GTL Monpoly $4.00 20% $4.00 8%
South Dakota JailATM Monpoly $3.25 16% $5.00 10%
Tennessee Securus (JPay) Monpoly $3.90 20% $6.90 14%
Utah Access Corrections Monpoly $6.95 35% $6.95 14%
Virginia Securus (JPay) Monpoly $2.95 15% $5.95 12%
Washington Securus (JPay), Western Union Competitive $3.95 20% $5.95 12%
West Virginia GTL, JailATM Competitive $2.75 14% $3.75 12%
Wyoming Access Corrections Monpoly $5.95 30% $5.95 12%

 

As an example of complexity that can arise from multiple options, consider the California Department of Corrections (which houses over 130,000 people). California contracts with all three of the dominant money-transfer vendors (JPay/Securus, GTL, and Access Corrections). JPay is significantly cheaper than the other companies if you want to send $20. But increase the amount the transfer to $50, and JPay is the most expensive option. Worse yet, the prison department’s webpage doesn’t show a chart of the different companies’ respective fees–so the only way a family member can figure out the different fee options is to create accounts with three different companies, initiate test transactions in each system, and then manually compare the different fees (or maybe hunt around vendor websites for a fee table buried in some non-obvious place). The complexity of the options is outlined in table 3. And keep in mind that this is only an example based on two different amounts–if you wanted to send $30, you’d have to perform another round of test transactions to figure out the cheapest option. This kind of opacity seems purposefully designed to prevent consumers from finding the most cost-effective option.

 

Table 3: Selecting the least expensive money-transfer service is incredibly complex In California, which has three vendors, JPay is the cheapest company to send $20, but the most expensive to send $50.
$20 transfer $50 transfer
Money-transfer vendor Fee Fee as percentage of amount transferred Fee Fee as percentage of amount transferred
Securus (JPay) $1.95 10% $7.95 16%
Access Corrections $3.50 18% $6.95 14%
GTL $3.95 20% $5.95 12%

 

Prisons don’t have to outsource

Most prison systems appear to have outsourced money transfers, but there are still some that handle these transactions in-house. Several states still process money-order payments sent through the mail. We also identified four states (Arkansas, Maine, Montana, and Texas) that accept online payments through a general-purpose state-operated online payment platform.

Interestingly, Arkansas recently added Access Corrections as an alternative to the state-operated payment platform. Access Corrections’ fees in Arkansas are 25¢ less than the fees for the state-operated system, and are by far the lowest fees we have seen Access Corrections charge in any prison system–thus suggesting that companies set rates based on what other options are available, and they can provide low-cost transfers when they’re forced to.

Mailed payments are still an option in many states

The vast majority of states (around 45) still allow people to mail a money order at no fee. Some states direct people to mail those money orders to the department of corrections’ accounting office; other states outsource the processing to vendors like JPay and Access Corrections. But, just because there’s no fee, doesn’t mean there’s no cost–between the cost of the money order itself, and a stamp, the sender will probably pay around $2, but that’s lower than most online fees.6 The issue, of course, is speed. The vendors that hold correctional banking contracts earn their profits from fees charged for payments made online or over the phone. Do we trust them to promptly process money orders for which they receive no fee revenue? If their terms of service are any indication, the companies seem to reserve the right to deliberately delay money-order processing.

 
 

Don’t forget the fine print

People can’t use these money-transfer services without agreeing to fine-print provisions (sometimes called “terms of use” or “terms and conditions”). These take-it-or-leave it documents (known to lawyers as contracts of adhesion) are ubiquitous in modern life, but they take on a particularly sinister role in the context of prison money transfers. We all agree to boilerplate terms when we use services like Gmail, Netflix, or Amazon. Even though these giant corporations have the upper hand, there is a faint form of accountability: consumer advocates and journalists routinely scour terms and conditions for unfair surprises; when a particularly egregious term is exposed, companies can be shamed and consumers can “vote with their feet” by switching to other providers. None of these safeguards are applicable to correctional money-transfer services, where the company controls a critical service for incarcerated people.

Terms imposed by the dominant money-transfer vendors are replete with objectionable, misleading, and unfair provisions. We’ve grouped some of the more problematic provisions into five categories, discussed below.

  1. Failure to promise anything in return for consumer’s money. Read a money-transfer website, and you’ll understandably be left with the impression that you can pay the vendor a fee to transfer money to someone in prison. But read the fine print, it turns out the companies don’t actually promise to do anything. All three of the leading companies disclaim “any warranty of any kind, express or implied.”7 Advertising a certain service (like transferring money) and then using fine print to disclaim any responsibility to actually provide that service is considered a deceptive practice under many consumer-protection laws.
  2. Seemingly intentional degradation of money-order payments. As noted above, sending a money order is obviously slower than making an online transfer, but in many cases it can be cheaper. But companies seem to go out of their way to make money-order payments arduously slow and plagued by uncertainty. JPay’s terms, for example, promise that payments will be “transmitted” within 1 or 2 business days, except for money-orders, which “are generally processed within ten (10) business days” (most people would refer to 10 business days as two weeks, which is an inexcusably long amount of time for processing small-dollar consumer payments).8 Both JPay and Access Corrections disclaim any liability for money orders that they receive, but which are not credited to the recipient’s account.9
  3. Privacy and consumer rights. Companies’ terms of use and privacy policies are replete with confusing or troublesome provisions regarding use of customers’ data. Some examples:
    • JPay requires customers to consent to a credit check,10 which makes no sense because JPay does not extend credit and it’s unclear why the company needs that kind of private information.
    • Companies say that user information can be shared with law enforcement, which at first glance isn’t terribly surprising. But many customers might be surprised that the terms of information sharing are so broad that they vitiate any kind of reasonable safeguards for consumers. Access Corrections, for example, says that it can share information with law enforcement, but it defines law enforcement as “personnel involved in the…investigative (public and private) or public safety purposes” (which, aside from being atrocious grammar, essentially means they can share your information with anyone who says they have a public safety purpose).11 GTL allows personal information to be shared with “law enforcement or correctional staff,” but doesn’t require that such staff have a proper job-related purpose for receiving such information.12
    • Access Corrections states that it has the right to use any customer communications to market its services, without notice or compensation to the customer.13 (Consumer activists successfully sued Facebook in 2011 for using customer likenesses without consent, but Access Corrections is apparently unconcerned about running afoul of the same laws that tripped up the behemoth Facebook).
  4. Poorly designed services. Several miscellaneous provisions indicate how poorly these companies carry out their operations. For example, JPay terms state that the only cost to send money is the “service fee” that must be paid prior to making the transfer.14 But a different paragraph in JPay’s terms state that if the company owes money to a customer (e.g., for a refund), and the customer does not claim the money, JPay will eat up the amount of the refund by levying a “monthly service fee” (this monthly fee is not mentioned on any of JPay’s fee disclosure pages, nor do the terms of service specify how much the fee is).15 JPay also requires 2 weeks’ advance notice before cancelling a recurring payment (this is probably not allowed under Visa’s rules, which reference a 7-day maximum advance notice requirement and require a “simple” mechanism for cancelling recurring payments16).
  5. Dispute resolution. A lot of us are forced to agree to arbitration provisions buried in the fine print of consumer contracts. But these clauses, which prevent consumers from going to court to vindicate their legal rights, are especially troublesome when the company imposing the provision has a monopoly on an essential service. GTL allows customers to “opt out” of arbitration, but also states that the company can terminate the accounts of customers who exercise that right.17 JailATM, meanwhile, requires customers to consent to arbitration conducted by the National Arbitration Forum,18 a disgraced company that was forced to stop conducting consumer arbitrations in 2009 as part of a legal settlement (in fact, we pointed out this problem in our 2016 report on electronic messaging, but JailATM apparently has not bothered to update their terms in the intervening five years). Other troublesome terms that are unrelated to arbitration include one-sided indemnification provisions19 and limitations periods for disputes that are substantially shorter than most states’ statutes of limitations for contract claims.20

 
 

Suggestions for improvements

The current system is complicated, inconvenient, and expensive. Different people have different opportunities to address these problems, as explained below.

Family members of incarcerated people

It may seem like family members have no leverage in this unfair system, but there are some things they can do to advocate for change.

  • Complain about high fees or poor service. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) has an easy-to-use online complaint system specifically designed for financial services like money transfers. Your state attorney general may also be able to investigate certain abusive or deceptive practices. If the relevant prison system has an ombuds or office of family support, send a copy of your complaint to them as well.
  • Talk to legislators. Money-transfer vendors take advantage of the lack of regulatory oversight. It turns out that money-transfer vendors are subject to regulation in nearly all states as “money-transmitters;” however, money-transmitter regulations are focused on the fiscal health of the business (known as “prudential regulation”), not protecting consumers. But legislatures can close this loophole. Tell state legislators (or, in the case of jails, county commissioners) about the economic toll of money-transfer fees, and ask them to pass legislation requiring regulatory agencies to enact rules protecting customers of correctional money-transfer services.
  • If possible, plan ahead and send a money order to avoid fees. If there are problems with money orders (slow processing, out of state mailing addresses), tell facility management and point out that “just send money online” isn’t an adequate response, because the online option is so expensive.

Regulators

  • Federal law prohibits financial service providers from taking unreasonable advantage of a consumer’s inability to protect their own interests in selecting or using a consumer financial service.21 Users of correctional money-transfer services are unable to protect their own interests because they must either use a monopoly provider selected by a correctional facility, or choose from 2 or 3 options, all of which appear to set exorbitant prices in relation to their competitors. The CFPB is tasked with enforcing this law, and it should use its investigative and enforcement powers to crack down on unreasonably high money-transfer fees.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) is also empowered to issue rules prohibiting specific unfair trade practices that cause reasonably foreseeable injury to consumers.22 The FTC should use this authority, either by itself or in conjunction with the CFPB, to develop rules governing maximum allowable fees and what types of contractual terms vendors can (or can’t) impose on customers.

Prison procurement officials

  • At least part of the high cost of money transfers comes from some prison systems demanding or accepting “commissions” (or kickbacks) from vendors. As with phone contracts, prisons can help lower costs by refusing commissions.
  • Look for in-house alternatives from other parts of state government. Prison systems are departments within state governments. Other state agencies are accustomed to accepting online payments (for vehicle registrations, hunting licenses, tuition, or any number of purposes). Have any of them developed low-cost in-house solutions for processing these payments? And if so, can those solutions be adapted for use in prisons? Arkansas, Maine, Montana, and Texas have figured out how to do it–other states should follow suit.
  • Sending a money order by mail is a no-fee option in most states, but the utility of this option is severely limited when vendors deliberately prolong the amount of time it takes to process money orders. States can make this better in a number of ways. If at all possible, keep the processing of money orders in-house. If money-order processing is outsourced, there are two requirements that the state should put into its contract with the money-transfer vendor. First, the vendor should be required to process money orders within one business day of delivery. Second, the vendor should provide an in-state mailing address for all money order payments.23
  • Post all fees on the DOC information page: as noted above, some states sign contracts with multiple vendors, but don’t post the companies’ respective fees in one location. Every DOC webpage about money transfers should include an easy-to-read disclosure of applicable fees so that all family members and all staff members are aware of these fees.
  • Provide specific details about garnishments/mandatory deductions. Many prison systems deduct money from incoming transfers to pay for mandatory fines, child support, restitution, cost of confinement, or other fees. Money-transfer vendors, unsurprisingly, disclaim any liability for these deductions. It’s true that these deductions are created by the state, so the state bears responsibility for explaining them. This is important information: if someone in prison needs $20 to pay for hygiene items, then a relative sending money needs to know how much to send so that the recipient actually gets $20 after mandatory deductions. Any webpage that includes information on how to send money should also include detailed information on how much is deducted and what deposits are subject to garnishment. This information should include what deductions apply to everyone, versus which deductions (like child support) only apply to a subset of recipients. Ideally, the webpage should also include a calculator so that users can type in a transfer amount and instantly see how much will be delivered to the recipient.

Companies

Last but not least, money-transfer vendors themselves have the most power to address problems in the industry they have created. While it’s probably unrealistic to expect these companies to voluntarily reduce fees, if companies are serious about their marketing puffery,24 there are other simple steps they could take to make customers’ lives easier.

  • To the extent that money-transfer fees are inflated in part due to commissions being paid to correctional facilities, vendors should offer a commission-free alternative in all bids.
  • All vendors include vague provisions in their terms of use that transfers from a customer’s credit card “may” be treated as a cash advance. While the vendor probably can’t give a definitive answer (because the bank or entity that issues the credit card the consumer is using has some discretion in how to handle these transactions), the vendors are the ones who create the transaction record, so they know how it’s coded.25 Vendors should provide customers with the precise transaction coding applicable to their payment so that customers can then be fully informed when they ask their own bank how the transaction will be treated.
  • It costs very little to write fair and easy-to-understand contracts. Vendors should rewrite their terms and conditions and eliminate things like arbitration provisions, 2-week processing times for mailed payments, and disclaimers of any warranties whatsoever.

 
 

Footnotes

  1. The term “trust account” is a term of art in the correctional sector, referring to a pooled bank account that holds funds for incarcerated people whose individual balances are sometimes treated as subaccounts. The term “trust” is used because the correctional facility typically holds the account as trustee, for the benefit of the individual beneficiaries (or subaccount holders).
  2. Paypal’s free transfers are available only for payments made from bank accounts; Paypal charges 30¢ plus 2.9% for a transfer coming from either a credit- or debit-card. CashApp doesn’t publish its fees, but others report that their fees mirror Venmo’s.
  3. We say “at least” eleven states because of the confusing role of companies like Western Union and MoneyGram. Many states list Western Union, MoneyGram, or a similar money services business, as one of several options for sending money, but that doesn’t mean there is true competition. For example, a prison system could contract with JPay to handle all money transfers, and JPay could subcontract with Western Union to handle in-person cash payments. The prison’s webpage may say that people can choose between JPay’s website and sending cash at any Western Union location, but in this hypothetical, Western Union is acting as an agent of JPay, not a competitor. Based on a variety of factors, we think that Western Union is an independent, competitive option for sending money to people incarcerated in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa and Washington’s prison systems. There may be other states where Western Union or a similar company is an actual competitive option, but it is very difficult to tell based on publicly-available information.
  4. Specifically, prison officials tend to spend a lot of time worrying about laundered or otherwise illegitimate money being sent to incarcerated people. It’s not that these concerns are never valid, but we do wonder how prevalent the problem actually is. The latest major example of this narrative occurred in June, when the Washington Post, possibly acting on a leak from the federal Bureau of Prisons, published a story claiming that “there are more than 20 [federal] inmate accounts holding more than $100,000 each for a total exceeding $3 million.” This makes it sound like nefarious trust-account activity is some kind of huge problem, but if there is a problem the BOP has all the tools it needs to investigate suspicious transactions and take corrective action. More importantly, the same article notes that there are roughly 129,000 people incarcerated in BOP facilities, and the total balance of all trust accounts is somewhere around $100 million. If you subtract the $3 million in the 20 high-balance accounts, you arrive at an average account balance of $752 (i.e., $97 million divided by 128,980 people). That’s hardly a lavish amount of money (and keep in mind it’s a mean average, so it probably skews high due to a comparatively small number of people whose trust accounts receive pension or other income payments).
  5. The cost difference was narrower for a $50 transfer, with an average fee of 11% for states with multiple options, versus 13% in monopoly states.  ↩

  6. The U.S. Postal Service charges $1.45 for a money order (up to $500 face value), Walmart charges up to $1. A first-class stamp is currently 58¢.
  7. JPay “Payments Terms of Service” P 17 (dated Aug. 18, 2021; accessed Oct. 19, 2021); GTL “Terms of Use” P 16 (dated Jun. 25, 2021; accessed Oct. 25, 2021); Access Corrections “Terms & Conditions” at paragraph titled “Disclaimer of Warranties and Limitation of Liability” (dated Aug. 23, 2021; accessed Oct. 19, 2021).
  8. JPay “Terms of Service” P 6 (emphasis added).
  9. JPay “Terms of Service” P 7; Access Corrections “Terms & Conditions” at paragraph titled “Money Orders.”
  10. Aventiv Technologies, “Privacy and Data Processing Policy,” paragraph entitled “Business purposes for the collection of personal information (dated May 5, 2021; accessed Oct. 19, 2021) (Aventiv is the parent company of Securus and JPay).
  11. Access Corrections, “User Agreement,” paragraph entitled “Agency Access” (dated Mar. 19, 2009, accessed Oct. 19, 2021).
  12. GTL “Terms of Use” P 6.
  13. Access Corrections “Terms & Conditions” at paragraph titled “Use of information submitted.”
  14. JPay “Terms of Service” PP 5 and 9.
  15. JPay “Terms of Service” P 13.
  16. Visa Core Rules and Product & Service Rules S 5.8.10.1, tbl. 5-18 (Oct. 16, 2021).
  17. GTL “Terms of Use” P 22(d).
  18. JailATM, “Terms of Agreement,” paragraph titled “Governing Law” (undated, accessed Oct. 25, 2021)
  19. JPay “Terms of Service” P 16; Access Corrections “Terms & Conditions” at paragraph titled “Indemnity.”
  20. JPay and Access Corrections both require that claims be filed within one year of the claim arising. JPay “Terms of Service” P 15; Access Corrections, “User Agreement,” paragraph entitled “Disputes.” JPay’s provision is especially tricky because it defines the time limit as 12 months from the customer’s “constructive knowledge” of the claim, without defining the term “constructive knowledge” (lawyers can, and have, argued for years about the meaning of constructive knowledge, so expecting consumers to understand the term is unrealistic), and because JPay requires customers to give the company 30 days’ notice before filing a claim, which effectively shortens the limitations period from 1 year to 11 months.
  21. Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. 111-203 SS 1031(d)(2)(B) and 1036(a)(1)(B) (Jul. 21, 2010)(codified as 12 U.S.C. SS 5531(d)(2)(B) and 5536(a)(1)(B)).
  22. 15 U.S.C. S 45 (a)(1) and (4).
  23. The issue of mailing distance has recently assumed heightened importance as the U.S. Postal Service has implemented a plan to slow down the mail, particularly mail traveling long distances. For example, even under the new mail-delivery standards, mail sent in Minnesota should reach most prisons in the state within two days. But if someone in Minnesota wants to send a money order to someone in the Minnesota prison system, it has to be mailed to JPay’s office in Florida, which takes twice as long. States can mitigate against this unreasonable delay by prohibiting vendors from using out-of-state addresses for receipt of money orders.
  24. JPay’s parent company, for example, brags that it “delivers superior value and service to all of our customers nationwide” (see Aventiv Technologies, “Privacy and Data Processing Policy,” introductory paragraph), a claim that’s hard to square with its actual pricing and user contracts.
  25. Some card networks don’t even use the term “cash advance.” Visa rules, for example, use the terms “account funding transactions” and “manual cash disbursement,” which describe two mutually exclusive type of cash-like transactions.

See all footnotes


The company was fined $6 million for exploiting people leaving prison.

by Wanda Bertram, October 28, 2021

Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined JPay, a prison services provider, $6 million for exploiting people leaving prison. Below, we explain why the Bureau’s enforcement order against JPay — which builds on some arguments we made in 2015 — is a victory for criminal justice reform.

JPay is a private company widely known for selling video calls, emails and other technology to incarcerated people, but it has a less-well-known business providing pre-paid debit cards to incarcerated people upon release. This update concerns that last business.

We’ve previously discussed how a growing number of prisons force people leaving custody to receive money — such as wages earned inside, unused “trust account”1 balances, or small reentry stipends — on pre-paid debit cards riddled with high fees. The companies issuing these “release cards,” including JPay, have imposed fees for checking one’s account balance at an ATM, making a purchase, closing an account, and simply having an account at all, eating up formerly incarcerated people’s meager account balances.

The CFPB’s enforcement order against JPay will protect many people from these unreasonable and unjust fees going forward. The order takes four important steps:

  1. The order prevents JPay from charging any fees on release cards in the future, other than an “inactivity fee” that can only be triggered after someone does not use their account for 90 days. For JPay customers, the complex matrix of extraneous fees is now gone, hopefully forever (though the consent order does expire after five years).
  2. The order affirms that the CFPB has the jurisdiction to regulate release cards under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, basically staking a claim for the Bureau to oversee JPay and other release-card issuers and take enforcement action when necessary. (In 2016, when the CFPB was conducting a rulemaking concerning prepaid cards, the Prison Policy Initiative brought the growing use of release cards to the agency’s attention.)
  3. The order clarifies that under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, people being released from prison cannot be forced to receive “gate money” (stipends for reentry) on prepaid debit cards. Instead, people must be given multiple options for receiving gate money, such as a paper check or cash. The CFPB has previously noted that the same protection applies to wages earned in prison, but it’s not entirely clear how this works with accumulated wages that are paid out in a lump sum when someone leaves custody.
  4. The order spells out in detail how some of JPay’s business practices are unfair or abusive under the Dodd-Frank Act. This part of the order may prove critical for lawyers and activists fighting for further consumer protections for incarcerated people: Dodd-Frank prohibits unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices, but these are broad terms that need refinement, and the CFPB’s order provides that kind of refinement so that advocates can hone their strategies.

Readers who want further reading on this topic, particularly journalists, might find the following resources helpful:

Footnotes

  1. The term “trust account” is a term of art in the correctional sector, referring to a pooled bank account that holds funds for incarcerated people whose individual balances are sometimes treated as subaccounts. The term “trust” is used because the correctional facility typically holds the account as trustee, for the benefit of the individual beneficiaries (or subaccount holders).  ↩


A study by members of the New York University Prison Education Program Research Collective gives important first-hand accounts of the damage done when prisons shift financial costs to incarcerated people.

by Tommaso Bardelli, Zach Gillespie and Thuy Linh Tu, October 27, 2021

Note: We are pleased to present research from members of the New York University Prison Education Program Research Collective, a collaboration between faculty and formerly incarcerated students. Their research, based on interviews with 51 men who have been released from the New York State prison system, provides unique, first-hand accounts of how prisons are shifting more financial costs onto people who are incarcerated.

How much does it cost to take care of basic needs in prison? Our research team at New York University’s Prison Education Program set out to find an answer to this question. We looked not just for a specific dollar amount, but also at intangible human costs.

Going to jail or prison increasingly comes with a hefty price tag for the person who is incarcerated. As states continue to cut public spending, individuals are often expected to pay money to meet their basic needs in confinement facilities. Today, for instance, most states spend less than $4 per day to feed one incarcerated person—with some states like Alabama, Kansas, and West Virginia spending less than $2 per person. Such budgets are not enough to provide healthy and nutritious meals, so most people have no choice but to purchase extra food from the commissary store and/or to rely on care packages sent from home. At the same time that public expenditures have decreased, prison wages have stagnated, and the prices of food, phone calls, and other consumer items have increased. This has resulted in a greater economic burden on those individuals and families who can manage to absorb the costs, and a “surplus” (or exacerbation) of harm and punishment for those who cannot.

Our research team recently conducted interviews with fifty-one formerly incarcerated men in New York, all of whom had been released from state prisons in the last five years. The interviews provide a personal perspective on the ideology of fiscal austerity that has become commonplace in correctional administration. The people we interviewed also shed light on a dynamic that may surprise some readers: despite the common assumption that prisons are homogenous spaces, economic hierarchies do, in fact, exist inside. Our interviewees alluded to the concept of being “jail rich”(i.e., having access to some level of financial resources), and also discussed the significant portion of the prison population that cannot afford to pay for essential goods. Our research finds that a person’s inability to absorb the cost of fiscal austerity makes them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of a prison sentence, with consequences that are likely to last well after they have left prison.

 

A basic prison budget

While it is difficult to determine exactly how much it costs to cover basic needs inside a New York State facility, most of our interviewees estimated that they needed at least $175 per month to get by (translating to a minimum budget of $2,100 per year). With that sum, they explained, people can purchase just enough commissary food to integrate the paltry meals served by the facility, while also having some left to spend on other essentials, such as clothes, personal care products, and a few phone calls to family each month.

Average annual budget

Item/Category Amount Spent
Commissary $1,249
Tobacco $257
Clothes $130
Phone/Mail $1,972
Fines $110
Total $3,718

 

Family support

Since our respondents reported making on average less than $0.25 per hour, or about $31 per month, from in-prison employment, none could reach a monthly “living wage” without regular support from friends and family. Out of the fifty-one people we interviewed for this study, only eighteen said they could count on steady financial support from their loved ones, while twenty-two said they received some support but that it was not regular and/or not always sufficient to cover basic needs. Eleven participants reported receiving little to no support during most of their sentences. The experiences of the individuals with no financial resources are discussed in the following sections.

What kind of financial support did people receive from friends and family?

Support amount/frequency Number of respondents
Received steady support 18
Received irregular/insufficient support 22
Received little/no support 11

 

Food insecurity and health consequences

Hunger was the first thing most of our participants mentioned when talking about what it was like to be poor in prison. The food provided by the prison, everybody agreed, was insufficient, unhealthy, and sometimes inedible. To get by, people who had no external support invested the little money they earned from in-prison employment in a “survival kit” consisting of peanut butter, jelly, and a few ramen soups, which they would use to integrate—or at times replace—prison meals. These individuals were more likely to report health problems such as gastrointestinal diseases, foodborne illness, and drastic weight loss, as well as frequent headaches and chronic fatigue. Tim1, who was incarcerated for seven and a half years with little family support, for instance, remembered feeling constantly hungry during his last incarceration, to the point that he was often too weak or too ill to even leave his cell:

“When I was hungry, man, I had to lay—I just got to go and lay down. Because yeah you get, I got headaches, you know? I got headaches, I got cranky, I got moody, you know? Yeah, you get real moody when you want something to eat, believe me.”

Steven, who spent thirteen years in New York State prisons, said lack of access to food caused him to miss out on the few educational and training opportunities in the prison:

“I could never accomplish much while I was in there, he explained, because my stomach was always hurting, I could never get my body physically right. I was just deteriorating, day after day.”

 

Isolation from friends and family

While all incarcerated people experience dramatic disruption of social and intimate relationships, those who are unable to have regular contact with their loved ones during their prison sentence suffer its effects more acutely. Although costs of in-prison phone calls have significantly declined over the past decade—thanks to political action by families and to rate caps introduced by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) – people who live off their wages from prison labor still cannot afford regular contact with family. Some of our participants reported speaking to family only a few times and receiving less than one visit per year during their incarceration. For many, the two free postage stamps provided by the facility each month offered the only means of communication with loved ones outside. Such an extreme and prolonged social disconnection is likely to heighten feelings of isolation and loneliness, and to negatively affects both people’s well-being inside carceral facilities and their re-entry after prison, when they must rely on family members for emotional and material support.

Monthly expenses for phone calls

Amount spent per month Number of respondents
$0 – 49 19
$50 – 99 6
$100 – 199 8
$200+ 16
N/A 2

 

Psychological consequences of prison poverty

Not being able to shop at commissary, or to regularly call home, can also affect how people experience the emotional and psychological harms of incarceration. Cooking their own meals or wearing their own clothes helps to counter some of the daily degradations of prison life. Having to continually eat unappetizing food or wear worn-out uniforms makes it harder to maintain a sense of self. Even more so than their peers, our interviewees who were indigent reported feeling stripped of their dignity and humanity by the prison system. For Steven, for instance, not being able to shop at commissary meant not just being constantly hungry, but also being unable to cook something nice on special occasions:

“I would not celebrate Thanksgiving, nor any other holiday. I don’t even celebrate holidays. I don’t celebrate New Year’s. I don’t celebrate any of that stuff, not in prison. I did no celebrating in prison. Every day was a living hell.”

For those with no access to personal resources, the inability to mitigate against material deprivation negatively affected their psychological well-being.

 

Conclusion

The carceral system has become even more unjust: incarcerated individuals have no access to gainful employment, and yet are required to pay for their basic necessities. While this system affects all incarcerated people, those who do not have the resources to cover basic needs experience its effects more acutely. Without regular access to commissary and telecommunications, people are more vulnerable to the negative health and psychological harms associated with a prison sentence. As a consequence, individuals and their families often face an impossible choice: drain the household’s resources to support their loved ones inside or leave them exposed to the most brutal forms of deprivation. This modern-day “prisoner’s dilemma” harms the well-being of the most disadvantaged people in prison and amplifies the negative impacts of incarceration far past the prison gate by draining financial resources from already vulnerable families and communities.

 

The authors are members of the New York University Prison Education Program Research Collective, a collaboration between faculty and formerly incarcerated students at NYU conducting research on the true costs of incarceration on families and communities in New York State.

 
 

Footnotes

  1. All names have been changed to protect the privacy of research participants  ↩


While some prison systems and local jails have maintained historically low populations, others have returned to pre-pandemic levels, despite the ongoing dangers of COVID-19.

by Emily Widra, October 21, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, particularly inside prisons and jails. The death rate from COVID-19 in prisons is more than double that of the general U.S. population.1 In state and federal prisons across the country, over 2,800 people have died of COVID-19 and almost 438,000 people in prison have been infected, and thousands of additional cases are linked to individual county jails. As the more contagious Delta variant ravages parts of the nation, public health officials continue to recommend prison population decreases as a primary method of risk reduction. Our data show that with just a few exceptions, state and local leaders are continuing to fail to reduce their prison and jail populations.

The federal Bureau of Prisons, state governments and departments of corrections, and local officials have a responsibility to protect the health and lives of those who are incarcerated. After 18 months of outbreak after outbreak in prisons and jails, it is clear correctional authorities must be held accountable for their failure to reduce their populations enough to prevent the illness and death of those who are incarcerated and in surrounding communities.

Prisons

Even in states where prison populations have dropped, there are still too many people behind bars to accommodate social distancing, effective isolation and quarantine, and increased health care requirements. For example, although California has reduced the state prison population by about 18% since the start of the pandemic, it has not been enough to prevent large COVID-19 outbreaks in the state’s prisons. In fact, as of October 6th, 2021, California’s prisons were still holding more people than they were designed for, at 112% of their design capacity (and up from 103% in January 2021). Considering the continued overcrowding in the California prison system, it’s not surprising that the state is responsible for seven out of the ten largest COVID-19 prison clusters.

line graph showing 50 state prison and federal prison population changes from March 2020 to October 2021 Figure 1. Prison population data for 50 states prison systems as reported directly from the state Departments of Correction and the Marshall Project and federal data as published weekly by the federal Bureau of Prisons. For the available population data for these 50 states and the Bureau of Prisons, see Appendix A.

Many states’ prison populations are the lowest they’ve been in decades, but this is not because more people are being released from prisons. The limited data available from eleven states shows that the average number of monthly prison releases have actually decreased since 2019.

bar graph showing 11 states with decreasing number of average monthly releases from 2019 to 2021 Figure 2. These eleven states published monthly release data for 2019, 2020, and the beginning of 2021. Although we cannot be certain that this analysis is representative of the other 39 state prison systems and the federal Bureau of Prisons, these data do show us a pattern of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: fewer people have been released from these state prisons in response to COVID-19 in 2020 than in 2019, and, in 2021, prison releases are even lower than the two prior years.

Instead, data suggest most of the population drops we’ve seen over the past 18 months are due to reduced prison admissions, not increasing releases. In the ten states for which we have data, both admissions and releases have decreased in recent years, making clear that prisons are not using all available tools at their disposal to stop the spread of the virus in their facilities. Reducing the number of people admitted to correctional facilities is critical to reducing the number of people behind bars, but to quickly decarcerate, states should release far more people, too.

ten line graphs comparing monthly releases to admissions for ten state prison systems from 2018 to 2021 Figure 3. These ten states publish monthly release and admission data for 2018, 2019, 2020, and at least the first half of 2021. Although we cannot be certain that this analysis is representative of the other 40 state prison systems and the federal Bureau of Prisons, these data do show us a pattern of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: reducing prison admissions, while releasing fewer people from prison.

Despite evidence that large-scale releases do not inherently endanger public safety, states have elected to release people from prison on a mostly case-by-case basis, which an October 2020 report from the National Academies described as “procedurally slow and not well suited to crisis situations.”

Thankfully, some states have recognized the inefficiency of case-by-case releases and the necessity of larger-scale releases. For example, in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed bill S2519 in October 2020, which allowed for the early release of people with less than a year left on their sentences. A few weeks after the bill was signed, more than 2,000 people were released from New Jersey state prisons on November 4th.2 In February 2021, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced plans to release 3,500 people in state custody (with 1,500 of those releases to take place within 90 days). The releases were the result of a NAACP lawsuit challenging prison conditions in North Carolina during COVID-19. The state said it would release people using discretionary sentence credits (similar to “good time credits”), home confinement, and post-release supervision. But these are the only two instances we are aware of where large-scale release efforts are actually taking place in state prison systems.

Jails

Jail populations, like prison populations, are lower now than they were pre-pandemic. Initially, many local officials — including sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges — responded quickly to COVID-19 and reduced their jail populations. In a national sample of 415 county jails of varying sizes, most (88%) decreased their populations from March to July of 2020, resulting in an average change of a 24% population decrease across all 415 jails. These population reductions came as the result of various policy changes, including police issuing citations in lieu of arrests, prosecutors declining to charge people for “low-level offenses,” courts reducing cash bail amounts, and jail administrators releasing people detained pretrial or those serving short sentences for “nonviolent” offenses.

But later in the pandemic, those trends reversed. Between July 2020 and January 2021, the populations of 69% of the jails in our sample increased, reversing course from the earlier months of the pandemic. As of October 2021, 29% of the jails in our sample have higher populations now than they did in March 2020.3 Overall, the average population change across these 415 jails since March 2020 has diminished to only a 7% decrease, suggesting that the early reforms instituted to mitigate COVID-19 have largely been abandoned. For example, by mid-April 2020, the Philadelphia city jail population reportedly dropped by more than 17% after city police suspended low-level arrests and judges released “certain nonviolent detainees” jailed for “low-level charges.” But just two weeks later — as the pandemic raged on — the Philadelphia police force announced that they would resume arrests for property crimes, effectively reversing the earlier reduction efforts. Similarly, on July 10th, 2020, the sheriff of Jefferson County (Birmingham), Alabama, announced that the jail would limit admissions to only “violent felons that cannot make bond.” That effort was quickly abandoned when the jail resumed normal admission operations just one week later. The increasing jail populations across the country suggest that after the first wave of responses to COVID-19, many local officials have allowed jail admissions to return to business as usual.

line graph showing increasing jail population across 415 county jails after initial population drops in early 2020 Figure 4. Despite the continued dangers of COVID-19 and the Delta variant across the country, the number of people held in our sample of 415 county jails across the country has not continued to decrease over the past year, following initial reductions in early 2020. In fact, the data show a trend of jail populations slowly increasing. This graph contains aggregated data collected and provided by NYU’s Public Safety Lab and updates a graph in our June 2021 analysis. It includes all jails where the Lab was able to report data on March 10th and for at least 75% of the days in our research period, which ended October 7th, 2021. (Data are not available for all facilities for all days.) This graph presents the data as 7-day rolling averages, which smooths out most of the variations caused by individual facilities not reporting population data on particular days. The temporary population drops during the last weeks of May, August, and November 2020 and February 2021 and August 2021 are the result of more facilities than usual not being included in the dataset for various reasons, rather than any known policy changes. To see county level data for all 415 jails included in this analysis, see Appendix B.

In New York City, the jail population sharply declined after the pandemic was declared. Importantly, NYC jails – particularly Rikers Island – were some of the first jails in the country to witness a COVID-19 outbreak. And yet, across different demographics, NYC jail populations have slowly leveled out, suggesting that the policies responsible for the necessary decarceration are no longer in practice. In addition to suffering the effects of COVID-19, Rikers Island is also facing an unprecedented crisis following a history of over-incarceration and, according to a federal monitor, “decades of mismanagement.” At a time when jail populations should be at an all time low, Rikers Island’s confined population has surpassed the pre-COVID-19 population.

line graph showing increasing jail population across 415 county jails after initial population drops in early 2020 Figure 5. Graph showing the daily count of the NYC jail population by 5 key metrics. By all metrics, the NYC jail population dropped quickly at the start of the pandemic, but then started to rise again. As of July 29, 2021 the total NYC jail population was higher than before the pandemic. Critically, the number of people detained pretrial has actually grown — from 4,284 on January 1, 2020 to 5,152 people on October 1, 2021 — likely because of the rollback of significant bail reform efforts last year. The population drops in September 2021 are encouraging but are likely the consequence of Governor Hochul signing the Less is More Act, releasing people on technical violations from jail, and would therefore represent a helpful policy change that will reduce the population. However, the steep slope of the decline in September 2021 is unlikely to continue at that rate on its own without additional policy changes. Even with these reforms, the October 1st NYC jail population was only 3% below its pre-pandemic levels.
(Dotted lines connect periods with missing data, so the start of each dotted line and their bends represent specific historical data points.)

Even before COVID-19, prisons and jails were a threat to public health and considered notoriously dangerous places during any sort of viral outbreak. And yet, correctional facilities continue to be the source of a large number of infections in the U.S. The COVID-19 death rate in prisons is almost three times higher than among the general U.S. population, even when adjusted for age and sex (as the prison population is disproportionately young and male). Since the early days of the pandemic, public health professionals, corrections officials, and criminal justice reform advocates have agreed that decarceration is necessary to protect incarcerated people and the community at large from COVID-19. Decarceration efforts must include releasing more people from prisons and jails. Despite this knowledge, state, federal, and local authorities have failed to release people from prisons and jails on a scale sufficient to protect incarcerated people’s lives – and by extension, the lives of everyone in the communities where incarcerated people eventually return, and where correctional staff live and work.

Footnotes

  1. The COVID-19 death rate in prisons stands at a staggering 200 deaths per 100,000 incarcerated people, much higher than the death rate among the general U.S. population of 81 deaths per 100,000 residents. These rates, calculated by the UCLA COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, are adjusted to account for differences in age and sex between the prison population and the general U.S. population. For more details about how these rates were calculated, see “COVID-19 Incidence and Mortality in Federal and State Prisons Compared With the US Population, April 5, 2020, to April 3, 2021” published in JAMA.  ↩

  2. Unfortunately, this major victory for public health was immediately undercut by the federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency which quickly arrested 88 people who were released under bill S2519. A spokesperson from ICE claimed that these 88 individuals were “violent offenders or have convictions for serious crimes such as homicide, aggravated assault, drug trafficking and child sexual exploitation.” However, these claims are brought into question when considering that the releases that took place under bill S2519 specifically excluded “people serving time for murder or sexual assault” and those serving time for sexual offenses. Although we did not include ICE facilities in our analysis, there is evidence that ICE detention facilities have a COVID-19 case rate that is up to 13 times higher than that of the general U.S. population.  ↩

  3. 129 jails (29% of our sample) have higher populations now than they had before COVID-19. Some of those jails include large county jails with more than 500 people, including Wayne County, MI, Lubbock and Galveston Counties, TX, and St. Lucie County, FL.  ↩

Appendix A: State and federal prison populations during COVID‑19

Prison populations for the federal Bureau of Prisons and all 50 state prison systems from January 2020 to October 2021. When available, we used point-in-time population counts from the last day of the month. If that data point was not available, we then used either the monthly average daily population (ADP) or the point-in-time population count for latest date available in each month.

January 2020 February 2020 March 2020 April 2020 May 2020 June 2020 July 2020 August 2020 September 2020 October 2020 November 2020 December 2020 January 2021 February 2021 March 2021 April 2021 May 2021 June 2021 July 2021 August 2021 September 2021 October 2021 Sources
Alabama 21,114 20,655 19,752 19,342 18,901 18,693 18,262 17,914 17,725 17,454 17,308 17,134 17,051 16,792 17,189 17,724 The Marshall Project & DOC Monthly Reports
Alaska 4,776 4,277 4,216 4,334 4,414 4,511 4,586 4,581 4,559 4,523 4,505 4,493 4,478 4,487 The Marshall Project
Arizona 42,360 41,777 40,529 39,339 39,153 38,894 38,495 38,141 37,731 37,396 36,975 36,704 36,569 36,266 35,954 35,746 35,489 35,410 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly capacity reports
Arkansas 17,989 18,181 17,860 17,331 16,694 16,552 16,511 16,367 16,215 16,311 16,165 16,094 16,119 16,120 16,085 16,250 16,476 16,560 16,638 DOC monthly director’s board reports
California 117,454 117,639 113,632 111,072 109,800 102,715 97,342 94,852 94,433 94,179 92,350 91,341 91,516 92,079 92,836 94,103 95,107 95,809 96,194 95,950 The Marshall Project & CDCR weekly population reports
Colorado 17,585 16,382 15,807 15,531 15,022 14,935 14,673 14,257 13,687 13,558 13,556 13,553 13,537 13,650 13,730 13,968 14,042 14,009 The Marshall Project & DOC end-of-month population reports
Connecticut 12,381 12,290 11,454 10,640 10,206 9,645 9,545 9,391 9,348 9,233 9,111 9,053 9,100 9,039 9,011 8,947 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly reports
Delaware 5,042 4,624 4,233 4,195 4,216 4,322 4,457 4,168 4,358 4,677 4,360 4,326 4,269 4,267 The Marshall Project
Federal 163,886 163,498 157,340 145,399 143,071 140,970 140,540 139,446 138,776 137,084 137,361 137,260 137,686 137,633 138,394 138,773 140,295 140,627 140,518 BOP weekly population report
Florida 93,764 91,828 88,305 85,839 84,601 82,997 82,027 81,795 79,523 79,322 79,476 79,660 80,298 The Marshall Project
Georgia 55,019 53,642 51,213 50,446 49,848 49,365 48,433 48,132 47,703 47,027 46,530 46,309 46,195 44,540 46,296 47,147 47,092 47,334 47,405 The Marshall Project & DOC weekly repors
Hawaii 5,208 4,836 4,260 4,311 4,404 4,508 4,162 4,140 4,184 4,183 4,171 4,200 4,153 4,117 4,084 4,134 4,104 4,113 4,149 4,134 The Marshall Project & DPS monthly reports
Idaho 7,816 7,641 7,798 7,626 7,426 7,155 7,496 7,407 7,343 7,461 7,827 7,921 7,878 The Marshall Project
Illinois 36,931 34,668 31,945 31,195 31,002 30,651 30,001 29,225 29,151 28,160 27,503 27,313 27,313 The Marshall Project
Indiana 26,952 26,891 26,936 26,418 25,385 25,385 25,023 24,513 24,350 24,203 23,978 23,726 23,745 23,745 23,769 23,554 23,510 23,464 23,435 23,388 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly reports
Iowa 8,474 8,533 8,401 8,515 7,600 7,493 7,362 7,395 7,415 7,441 7,542 7,489 7,554 7,627 7,673 7,680 7,717 7,741 7,790 7,852 The Marshall Project & DOC daily statistics
Kansas 9,804 9,673 9,091 8,735 8,580 8,486 8,414 8,408 8,574 8,665 8,719 8,745 8,682 8,650 8,556 8,530 8,445 8,457 The Marshall Project & DOC end-of-month reports
Kentucky 12,306 12,162 11,782 11,549 11,272 11,002 10,589 10,391 10,242 10,151 9,854 9,706 9,655 9,625 9,708 9,899 9,930 9,967 10,084 9,990 The Marshall Project & DOC daily count sheets
Louisiana 15,019 15,067 15,066 14,967 14,775 14,623 14,443 14,313 14,241 14,134 14,052 13,903 13,822 13,722 13,724 13,546 13,522 The Marshall Project & DOC population trends report
Maine 2,176 2,138 2,019 1,922 1,828 1,788 1,783 1,779 1,766 1,718 1,712 1,695 1,679 1,672 1,661 1,603 1,607 1,614 1,609 1,597 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly reports
Massachusetts 7,958 7,950 7,969 7,626 7,260 7,125 7,033 6,973 6,891 6,778 6,729 6,609 6,570 6,524 6,374 6,363 6,318 6,303 6,268 6,180 6,165 The Marshall Project & DOC weekly counts
Michigan 37,687 35,798 34,973 34,561 34,330 34,134 33,917 33,617 33,370 33,185 32,962 32,822 32,698 The Marshall Project
Minnesota 9,381 8,904 8,718 8,402 8,330 7,736 7,674 7,549 7,427 7,315 7,327 7,342 7,228 7,251 7,369 The Marshall Project & DOC population summary reports
Mississippi 19,147 19,031 18,886 17,794 18,045 17,651 17,448 17,390 17,288 17,274 17,224 17,118 17,137 17,070 17,099 17,225 17,267 17,264 17,318 17,275 17,162 17,155 The Marshall Project & DOC daily population reports
Missouri 25,740 25,133 24,000 23,877 23,777 23,602 23,554 23,397 23,106 23,037 22,783 22,939 23,044 23,057 The Marshall Project
Montana 4,508 4,318 3,962 3,907 3,886 3,812 3,746 3,709 3,620 3,686 3,762 3,782 3,858 3,908 The Marshall Project
Nebraska 5,621 5,539 5,384 5,307 5,272 5,297 5,296 5,308 5,275 5,265 5,302 5,320 5,301 5,363 The Marshall Project
Nevada 12,379 12,403 12,384 12,152 11,937 11,231 11,696 11,696 11,354 11,273 11,222 11,134 11,007 10,926 10,841 10,777 10,640 10,505 10,429 10,260 The Marshall Project & DOC weekly fact sheets
New Hampshire 2,433 2,359 2,256 2,228 2,209 2,203 2,184 2,155 2,136 2,107 2,071 2,053 2,030 2,016 The Marshall Project
New Jersey 18,439 17,958 16,613 15,866 15,480 15,380 12,800 11,463 11,434 11,128 10,962 10,875 10,722 The Marshall Project
New Mexico 6,573 6,588 6,328 6,175 6,159 6,040 6,012 5,847 5,817 5,772 5,710 5,731 5,708 The Marshall Project
New York 42,784 40,956 38,723 37,559 37,053 36,528 35,983 35,353 34,446 33,376 32,384 31,412 31,456 31,890 The Marshall Project
North Carolina 29,023 34,256 33,790 31,485 31,471 31,341 30,657 30,278 29,321 28,714 28,679 28,746 28,765 29,415 29,165 28,687 The Marshall Project & DPS population reports
North Dakota 1,254 1,519 1,321 1,247 1,237 1,185 1,191 1,235 1,211 1,293 1,351 1,384 1,368 The Marshall Project
Ohio 48,697 48,765 48,927 47,620 46,212 45,876 44,972 44,536 44,598 44,441 44,027 43,665 43,495 43,246 43,005 43,014 43,046 42,963 43,080 43,134 43,056 The Marshall Project & DRC weekly population count reports
Oklahoma 25,055 25,039 24,956 24,395 23,891 22,875 22,201 21,980 21,769 21,747 21,678 21,778 21,718 21,665 21,670 21,772 21,725 21,615 21,601 21,597 21,398 21,353 The Marshall Project & DOC weekly counts
Oregon 14,483 12,593 14,459 14,407 14,351 14,055 13,721 13,507 13,484 13,306 13,149 12,989 12,742 12,593 12,404 12,322 12,190 12,098 12,068 12,067 12,045 12,097 The Marshall Project & DOC population trend report
Pennsylvania 47,579 47,382 46,559 45,251 44,556 43,916 43,204 41,964 41,438 41,140 40,786 40,403 40,088 39,499 39,296 39,080 38,868 38,998 38,950 36,979 36,954 36,740 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly population reports
Rhode Island 2,601 2,664 2,674 2,275 2,198 2,180 2,200 2,211 2,184 2,233 2,179 2,076 2,118 2,150 2,120 2,078 2,125 2,118 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly reports
South Carolina 18,106 18,074 18,028 18,229 17,687 17,455 17,224 16,361 16,121 16,230 15,806 16,013 15,676 15,720 15,586 15,548 15,213 15,420 15,458 15,171 15,275 15,408 DOC daily population counts
South Dakota 3,790 3,833 3,701 3,546 3,580 3,367 3,309 3,258 3,235 3,205 3,205 3,159 3,145 3,174 3,180 3,181 3,228 3,339 3,381 3,418 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly reports
Tennessee 21,826 21,793 21,616 21,150 20,394 20,079 19,249 19,279 19,143 19,566 19,605 19,453 19,510 19,433 19,687 19,687 20,537 20,502 20,429 20,485 20,098 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly reports
Texas 119,541 140,124 135,833 127,200 124,181 121,128 120,709 122,177 121,876 120,873 117,843 117,491 116,926 117,838 The Marshall Project
Utah 6,900 6,441 5,993 5,915 5,824 5,814 5,898 5,496 5,485 5,485 5,581 5,602 5,663 5,728 The Marshall Project
Vermont 1,656 1,406 1,395 1,417 1,390 1,417 1,413 1,369 1,380 1,292 1,281 1,272 1,238 1,228 1,395 1,285 1,291 1,300 1,322 The Marshall Project & DOC daily population reports
Virginia 29,233 29,208 29,161 28,559 27,871 28,595 26,749 26,190 25,659 25,156 24,731 24,235 23,811 23,644 23,796 23,897 23,966 24,229 24,467 24,625 The Marshall Project & DOC monthly reports
Washington 18,998 19,151 18,797 17,587 16,906 16,703 15,313 15,185 15,093 14,900 14,682 14,518 14,312 14,064 13,875 13,693 13,497 13,380 13,348 DOC monthly population reports
West Virginia 5,952 5,556 4,898 4,398 4,331 4,275 4,247 4,189 3,977 3,987 3,962 4,053 4,071 4,425 The Marshall Project
Wisconsin 23,349 23,251 23,591 22,507 21,788 21,576 21,252 21,312 21,136 21,495 20,494 20,137 20,033 19,513 19,452 19,301 19,271 19,380 19,548 19,796 20,070 20,142 The Marshall Project & DOC weekly population counts
Wyoming 2,156 2,098 2,001 1,986 1,959 1,996 2,232 2,157 2,134 2,133 2,252 The Marshall Project

Appendix B: County jail populations during COVID-19

This table shows the jail populations for 415 county jails where data was available where data was available for March 10th (the day the pandemic was declared) and for 75% of the days between March 10th, 2020 and October 7, 2021. (This table is a subset of the population data available for over 1,000 local jails from the NYU Public Safety Lab Jail Data Initiative.)

County State March 2020 population July 2020 population January 2021 population July 2021 population Most recent population Date of March 2020 population Date of July 2020 population Date of January 2021 population Date of July 2021 population Date of most recent population Percent change from March 2020 to July 2020 Percent change from July 2020 to January 2021 Percent change from January 2021 to July 2021 Percent change from July 2021 to most recent population Net percent change from March 2020 to most recent population
Autauga Ala. 172 170 187 158 157 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -1% 10% -16% -1% -9%
Chilton Ala. 212 184 196 198 211 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% 7% 1% 7% 0%
Clay Ala. 39 34 36 60 56 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% 6% 67% -7% 44%
Cleburne Ala. 84 61 59 70 56 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -27% -3% 19% -20% -33%
Coffee Ala. 127 76 89 146 125 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 17% 64% -14% -2%
Coosa Ala. 27 32 21 32 43 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 19% -34% 52% 34% 59%
Dale Ala. 75 69 83 90 69 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -8% 20% 8% -23% -8%
DeKalb Ala. 169 164 155 192 131 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -3% -5% 24% -32% -22%
Houston Ala. 394 324 386 377 328 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/1/21 10/7/21 -18% 19% -2% -13% -17%
Jackson Ala. 177 184 205 184 175 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 4% 11% -10% -5% -1%
Marion Ala. 131 139 157 160 121 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 6% 13% 2% -24% -8%
Morgan Ala. 617 556 561 635 573 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/19/21 10/14/21 -10% 1% 13% -10% -7%
Pike Ala. 63 34 58 70 75 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -46% 71% 21% 7% 19%
Randolph Ala. 64 49 55 73 69 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -23% 12% 33% -5% 8%
St Clair Ala. 222 229 196 235 229 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 3% -14% 20% -3% 3%
Talladega Ala. 301 225 303 365 323 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -25% 35% 20% -12% 7%
Washington Ala. 58 39 27 71 86 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% -31% 163% 21% 48%
Yavapai Ariz. 537 448 456 545 538 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 2% 20% -1% 0%
Yuma Ariz. 432 370 461 489 447 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% 25% 6% -9% 3%
Baxter Ark. 121 87 117 124 143 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -28% 34% 6% 15% 18%
Crawford Ark. 217 166 246 205 280 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 48% -17% 37% 29%
Franklin Ark. 36 24 76 78 89 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% 217% 3% 14% 147%
Howard Ark. 41 15 21 35 35 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -63% 40% 67% 0% -15%
Johnson Ark. 64 37 56 79 89 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -42% 51% 41% 13% 39%
Marion Ark. 42 22 56 83 70 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -48% 155% 48% -16% 67%
Nevada Ark. 56 33 52 56 60 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -41% 58% 8% 7% 7%
Poinsett Ark. 81 49 73 80 86 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 49% 10% 8% 6%
Pope Ark. 193 135 155 202 156 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -30% 15% 30% -23% -19%
Saline Ark. 235 131 189 223 215 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -44% 44% 18% -4% -9%
Stone Ark. 36 39 23 52 35 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 8% -41% 126% -33% -3%
Union Ark. 199 137 152 182 189 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -31% 11% 20% 4% -5%
Van Buren Ark. 78 29 36 75 69 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -63% 24% 108% -8% -12%
Washington Ark. 679 407 547 591 673 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 34% 8% 14% -1%
White Ark. 287 80 202 277 278 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -72% 153% 37% 0% -3%
El Dorado Calif. 390 325 339 288 306 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 4% -15% 6% -22%
Shasta Calif. 379 476 432 376 377 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 26% -9% -13% 0% -1%
Siskiyou Calif. 94 80 72 85 77 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% -10% 18% -9% -18%
Stanislaus Calif. 1,357 1,060 1,138 1,216 1,327 3/10/20 7/7/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% 7% 7% 9% -2%
Tulare Calif. 1,571 1,196 1,377 1,471 1,443 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 15% 7% -2% -8%
Yuba Calif. 385 219 237 206 207 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 8% -13% 0% -46%
Arapahoe Colo. 1,134 682 770 738 831 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 13% -4% 13% -27%
Bent Colo. 55 31 75 50 69 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -44% 142% -33% 38% 25%
Boulder Colo. 652 411 407 455 484 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -37% -1% 12% 6% -26%
Douglas Colo. 341 216 242 283 333 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -37% 12% 17% 18% -2%
Jefferson Colo. 1,265 633 790 998 1,060 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -50% 25% 26% 6% -16%
Pueblo Colo. 646 387 410 457 517 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 6% 11% 13% -20%
Alachua Fla. 735 667 808 783 813 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -9% 21% -3% 4% 11%
DeSoto Fla. 147 161 165 154 172 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 10% 2% -7% 12% 17%
Flagler Fla. 205 176 199 202 194 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% 13% 2% -4% -5%
Lake Fla. 21 12 21 22 20 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 75% 5% -9% -5%
Monroe Fla. 514 394 456 477 513 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -23% 16% 5% 8% 0%
Nassau Fla. 243 172 232 220 243 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% 35% -5% 10% 0%
Sarasota Fla. 872 781 943 918 910 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -10% 21% -3% -1% 4%
St Lucie Fla. 1,301 1,221 1,314 1,333 1,363 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -6% 8% 1% 2% 5%
Walton Fla. 436 404 448 442 460 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -7% 11% -1% 4% 6%
Bartow Ga. 673 531 557 577 583 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 5% 4% 1% -13%
Berrien Ga. 98 69 86 83 79 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/1/21 10/7/21 -30% 25% -3% -5% -19%
Brantley Ga. 122 124 110 108 88 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/1/21 10/7/21 2% -11% -2% -19% -28%
Bulloch Ga. 343 255 336 358 371 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% 32% 7% 4% 8%
Burke Ga. 106 93 108 102 117 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% 16% -6% 15% 10%
Camden Ga. 112 132 139 150 131 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 18% 5% 8% -13% 17%
Carroll Ga. 444 302 362 546 426 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -32% 20% 51% -22% -4%
Columbia Ga. 276 182 203 262 287 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -34% 12% 29% 10% 4%
Decatur Ga. 117 117 145 123 110 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 0% 24% -15% -11% -6%
Dodge Ga. 123 116 117 128 135 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -6% 1% 9% 5% 10%
Dougherty Ga. 586 415 541 537 573 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% 30% -1% 7% -2%
Douglas Ga. 683 344 384 676 576 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -50% 12% 76% -15% -16%
Effingham Ga. 237 142 150 224 214 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 6% 49% -4% -10%
Elbert Ga. 95 48 78 64 68 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -49% 63% -18% 6% -28%
Fayette Ga. 205 127 189 276 244 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -38% 49% 46% -12% 19%
Floyd Ga. 645 472 520 608 529 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -27% 10% 17% -13% -18%
Gordon Ga. 290 240 262 224 241 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 9% -15% 8% -17%
Habersham Ga. 164 114 128 114 118 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -30% 12% -11% 4% -28%
Haralson Ga. 184 117 182 142 113 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -36% 56% -22% -20% -39%
Jackson Ga. 143 112 181 174 134 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% 62% -4% -23% -6%
Lamar Ga. 58 38 44 66 67 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -34% 16% 50% 2% 16%
Laurens Ga. 337 285 296 298 317 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% 4% 1% 6% -6%
Liberty Ga. 209 176 194 196 167 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% 10% 1% -15% -20%
Monroe Ga. 128 102 145 135 142 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% 42% -7% 5% 11%
Oconee Ga. 28 23 19 33 38 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -18% -17% 74% 15% 36%
Pickens Ga. 77 85 93 102 84 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 10% 9% 10% -18% 9%
Polk Ga. 179 158 122 188 169 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% -23% 54% -10% -6%
Rabun Ga. 108 61 70 100 90 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -44% 15% 43% -10% -17%
Richmond Ga. 1,033 905 950 957 994 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% 5% 1% 4% -4%
Spalding Ga. 388 260 340 391 473 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% 31% 15% 21% 22%
Sumter Ga. 159 129 152 165 153 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -19% 18% 9% -7% -4%
Tattnall Ga. 86 36 74 87 83 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -58% 106% 18% -5% -3%
Tift Ga. 229 217 240 277 253 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -5% 11% 15% -9% 10%
Turner Ga. 67 61 64 76 52 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -9% 5% 19% -32% -22%
Union Ga. 52 39 46 42 53 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 8/19/21 -25% 18% -9% 26% 2%
Upson Ga. 104 59 88 124 131 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 49% 41% 6% 26%
Ware Ga. 421 340 418 436 397 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -19% 23% 4% -9% -6%
Washington Ga. 79 76 94 94 95 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -4% 24% 0% 1% 20%
Whitfield Ga. 486 336 408 405 323 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -31% 21% -1% -20% -34%
Worth Ga. 69 86 83 103 77 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 25% -3% 24% -25% 12%
Blaine Idaho 67 52 14 16 16 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% -73% 14% 0% -76%
Bonneville Idaho 392 275 254 299 283 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -30% -8% 18% -5% -28%
Canyon Idaho 446 384 400 364 379 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% 4% -9% 4% -15%
Nez Perce Idaho 126 76 86 94 75 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 13% 9% -20% -40%
Power Idaho 15 13 7 10 10 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% -46% 43% 0% -33%
Washington Idaho 40 39 32 43 38 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -3% -18% 34% -12% -5%
Kendall Ill. 157 137 144 134 148 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% 5% -7% 10% -6%
Macon Ill. 300 261 306 265 321 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% 17% -13% 21% 7%
Randolph Ill. 25 24 27 28 22 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -4% 13% 4% -21% -12%
Will Ill. 693 583 640 566 601 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% 10% -12% 6% -13%
Woodford Ill. 52 56 67 58 74 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 8% 20% -13% 28% 42%
Dearborn Ind. 233 253 271 274 251 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 9% 7% 1% -8% 8%
Hamilton Ind. 298 229 270 297 310 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -23% 18% 10% 4% 4%
Hendricks Ind. 266 205 187 251 244 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/6/21 -23% -9% 34% -3% -8%
Jackson Ind. 250 173 189 232 236 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -31% 9% 23% 2% -6%
Starke Ind. 119 93 97 115 121 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% 4% 19% 5% 2%
Buena Vista Iowa 23 7 13 18 10 3/10/20 7/9/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -70% 86% 38% -44% -57%
Cerro Gordo Iowa 69 41 53 65 67 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -41% 29% 23% 3% -3%
Clinton Iowa 59 35 53 59 78 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -41% 51% 11% 32% 32%
Dallas Iowa 28 36 46 42 57 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 29% 28% -9% 36% 104%
Dickinson Iowa 13 8 6 5 4 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -38% -25% -17% -20% -69%
Hardin Iowa 85 79 45 54 50 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -7% -43% 20% -7% -41%
Polk Iowa 896 546 737 821 797 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -39% 35% 11% -3% -11%
Scott Iowa 449 242 257 215 224 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -46% 6% -16% 4% -50%
Story Iowa 73 25 66 42 60 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -66% 164% -36% 43% -18%
Brown Kans. 12 14 19 20 15 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 17% 36% 5% -25% 25%
Crawford Kans. 76 50 67 87 114 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -34% 34% 30% 31% 50%
Dickinson Kans. 20 16 6 17 19 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% -63% 183% 12% -5%
Doniphan Kans. 9 8 8 9 10 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% 0% 13% 11% 11%
Finney Kans. 95 88 58 96 90 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -7% -34% 66% -6% -5%
Geary Kans. 101 78 88 93 90 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -23% 13% 6% -3% -11%
Jackson Kans. 83 55 68 58 74 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -34% 24% -15% 28% -11%
Shawnee Kans. 553 405 443 518 542 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -27% 9% 17% 5% -2%
Sherman Kans. 18 27 25 23 20 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 50% -7% -8% -13% 11%
Sumner Kans. 143 43 94 92 82 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -70% 119% -2% -11% -43%
Thomas Kans. 14 9 11 19 19 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -36% 22% 73% 0% 36%
Wabaunsee Kans. 9 5 9 6 13 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -44% 80% -33% 117% 44%
Allen Ky. 80 43 54 86 81 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 9/2/21 -46% 26% 59% -6% 1%
Bell Ky. 117 97 152 132 130 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 57% -13% -2% 11%
Boone Ky. 457 370 452 480 450 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 8/23/21 -19% 22% 6% -6% -2%
Campbell Ky. 590 492 518 381 444 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/5/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 5% -26% 17% -25%
Christian Ky. 768 522 566 611 663 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -32% 8% 8% 9% -14%
Clark Ky. 305 144 179 164 236 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -53% 24% -8% 44% -23%
Daviess Ky. 740 499 649 583 577 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% 30% -10% -1% -22%
Franklin Ky. 293 197 194 230 235 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% -2% 19% 2% -20%
Graves Ky. 183 146 132 176 198 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% -10% 33% 13% 8%
Jackson Ky. 128 78 88 96 94 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -39% 13% 9% -2% -27%
Jessamine Ky. 143 83 90 147 143 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/3/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -42% 8% 63% -3% 0%
Larue Ky. 143 82 132 132 122 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 61% 0% -8% -15%
Mason Ky. 188 105 111 172 180 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -44% 6% 55% 5% -4%
Muhlenberg Ky. 278 199 230 243 270 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -28% 16% 6% 11% -3%
Nelson Ky. 118 96 104 97 109 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -19% 8% -7% 12% -8%
Pike Ky. 449 318 337 361 334 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% 6% 7% -7% -26%
Pulaski Ky. 352 235 265 298 361 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% 13% 12% 21% 3%
Rockcastle Ky. 104 59 61 66 79 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 3% 8% 20% -24%
Todd Ky. 135 81 123 124 118 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 52% 1% -5% -13%
Wayne Ky. 197 126 115 133 126 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -36% -9% 16% -5% -36%
Allen La. 103 62 61 85 79 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% -2% 39% -7% -23%
Assumption La. 101 94 134 119 203 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -7% 43% -11% 71% 101%
Avoyelles La. 424 332 308 339 370 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% -7% 10% 9% -13%
Beauregard La. 164 137 148 147 199 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% 8% -1% 35% 21%
Bienville La. 42 29 28 22 27 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -31% -3% -21% 23% -36%
Bogalusa City La. 19 14 22 12 20 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% 57% -45% 67% 5%
Caldwell La. 611 502 583 589 606 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -18% 16% 1% 3% -1%
Catahoula La. 72 47 53 75 93 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -35% 13% 42% 24% 29%
Claiborne La. 579 465 422 488 448 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% -9% 16% -8% -23%
East Feliciana La. 244 215 237 250 235 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% 10% 5% -6% -4%
Evangeline La. 74 51 67 59 58 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -31% 31% -12% -2% -22%
Franklin La. 815 680 816 813 789 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 20% 0% -3% -3%
Hammond City La. 14 11 10 6 8 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% -9% -40% 33% -43%
Iberville La. 106 111 106 85 98 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 5% -5% -20% 15% -8%
Jefferson Davis La. 159 70 106 106 91 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -56% 51% 0% -14% -43%
Lafayette La. 997 527 559 582 640 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -47% 6% 4% 10% -36%
Lafourche La. 458 315 318 506 622 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -31% 1% 59% 23% 36%
LaSalle La. 73 58 84 114 109 3/10/20 7/8/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 45% 36% -4% 49%
Morehouse La. 464 504 446 397 402 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 9% -12% -11% 1% -13%
Pointe Coupee La. 100 79 83 110 97 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 5% 33% -12% -3%
Rapides La. 877 848 871 933 901 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -3% 3% 7% -3% 3%
Red River La. 64 57 52 58 48 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% -9% 12% -17% -25%
Richland La. 751 583 694 660 623 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% 19% -5% -6% -17%
Sabine La. 203 169 174 179 206 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 3% 3% 15% 1%
Shreveport La. 63 12 30 52 39 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -81% 150% 73% -25% -38%
St Charles La. 458 419 403 360 381 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 8/29/21 -9% -4% -11% 6% -17%
St James La. 68 39 51 58 69 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 9/4/21 -43% 31% 14% 19% 1%
St John La. 147 123 81 51 26 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% -34% -37% -49% -82%
Sulphur La. 11 17 13 18 13 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 55% -24% 38% -28% 18%
Tangipahoa La. 573 465 562 603 581 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -19% 21% 7% -4% 1%
Terrebonne La. 647 502 550 575 599 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% 10% 5% 4% -7%
Vermilion La. 147 134 156 140 160 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -9% 16% -10% 14% 9%
Vernon La. 131 101 130 113 114 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -23% 29% -13% 1% -13%
Ville Platte La. 15 6 16 9 11 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -60% 167% -44% 22% -27%
Washington La. 163 138 185 190 193 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% 34% 3% 2% 18%
Webster La. 627 550 584 578 591 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% 6% -1% 2% -6%
West Feliciana La. 25 15 118 128 116 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 687% 8% -9% 364%
Cumberland Maine 354 298 318 269 277 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% 7% -15% 3% -22%
Worcester Mass. 771 492 518 493 612 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -36% 5% -5% 24% -21%
Allegany Md. 191 141 130 180 196 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% -8% 38% 9% 3%
Prince Georges Md. 885 750 1,001 989 1,006 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% 33% -1% 2% 14%
Delta Mich. 125 105 92 103 115 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 9/29/21 -16% -12% 12% 12% -8%
Midland Mich. 108 53 59 69 85 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -51% 11% 17% 23% -21%
Wayne Mich. 2,103 2,160 2,940 3,072 3,111 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 3% 36% 4% 1% 48%
Beltrami Minn. 117 91 80 93 66 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% -12% 16% -29% -44%
Blue Earth Minn. 114 68 81 71 67 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% 19% -12% -6% -41%
Brown Minn. 18 16 16 23 17 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% 0% 44% -26% -6%
Carlton Minn. 33 14 21 25 17 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -58% 50% 19% -32% -48%
Chisago Minn. 61 25 33 31 29 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -59% 32% -6% -6% -52%
Clay Minn. 121 70 90 115 118 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -42% 29% 28% 3% -2%
Clearwater Minn. 17 12 12 25 25 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% 0% 108% 0% 47%
Crow Wing Minn. 157 97 92 113 116 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -38% -5% 23% 3% -26%
Fillmore Minn. 7 10 3 6 8 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 43% -70% 100% 33% 14%
Hubbard Minn. 64 40 41 40 41 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -38% 3% -2% 3% -36%
Isanti Minn. 60 31 25 31 34 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -48% -19% 24% 10% -43%
Kanabec Minn. 40 16 10 18 18 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -60% -38% 80% 0% -55%
Kandiyohi Minn. 91 79 49 57 91 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% -38% 16% 60% 0%
Koochiching Minn. 4 9 15 12 14 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 125% 67% -20% 17% 250%
Le Sueur Minn. 24 12 15 15 20 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -50% 25% 0% 33% -17%
McLeod Minn. 36 22 22 23 27 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -39% 0% 5% 17% -25%
Mille Lacs Minn. 81 51 37 37 48 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -37% -27% 0% 30% -41%
Morrison Minn. 33 21 29 29 32 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -36% 38% 0% 10% -3%
Nicollet Minn. 26 12 13 11 12 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -54% 8% -15% 9% -54%
Pipestone Minn. 14 10 8 14 6 3/10/20 6/23/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% -20% 75% -57% -57%
Redwood Minn. 12 13 12 12 15 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 8% -8% 0% 25% 25%
Renville Minn. 39 15 16 24 46 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -62% 7% 50% 92% 18%
Roseau Minn. 21 10 13 12 12 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 8/26/21 -52% 30% -8% 0% -43%
Scott Minn. 141 57 98 123 123 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -60% 72% 26% 0% -13%
Sherburne Minn. 307 259 225 285 286 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% -13% 27% 0% -7%
Sibley Minn. 10 4 8 6 8 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -60% 100% -25% 33% -20%
Swift Minn. 4 4 3 7 9 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 0% -25% 133% 29% 125%
Wilkin Minn. 9 9 12 5 12 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 0% 33% -58% 140% 33%
Winona Minn. 31 23 21 31 29 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% -9% 48% -6% -6%
Wright Minn. 186 91 120 116 156 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -51% 32% -3% 34% -16%
Yellow Medicine Minn. 15 13 12 10 20 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% -8% -17% 100% 33%
Adams Miss. 77 78 63 91 98 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 1% -19% 44% 8% 27%
Clay Miss. 68 51 64 77 102 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -25% 25% 20% 32% 50%
Hancock Miss. 203 207 178 196 223 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 2% -14% 10% 14% 10%
Jackson Miss. 340 375 347 351 403 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 10% -7% 1% 15% 19%
Jasper Miss. 30 24 24 24 24 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/8/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% 0% 0% 0% -20%
Lamar Miss. 107 87 79 96 94 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -19% -9% 22% -2% -12%
Lee Miss. 194 201 228 31 29 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 4% 13% -86% -6% -85%
Tunica Miss. 27 23 21 22 33 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% -9% 5% 50% 22%
Barry Mo. 46 47 61 64 67 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 2% 30% 5% 5% 46%
Bates Mo. 31 20 15 20 17 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/6/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -35% -25% 33% -15% -45%
Benton Mo. 35 20 30 30 26 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 50% 0% -13% -26%
Boone Mo. 253 204 243 243 233 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 9/4/21 -19% 19% 0% -4% -8%
Buchanan Mo. 222 165 184 188 171 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% 12% 2% -9% -23%
Cape Girardeau Mo. 148 156 189 229 227 3/10/20 6/11/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 5% 21% 21% -1% 53%
Christian Mo. 102 64 62 84 84 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -37% -3% 35% 0% -18%
Clay Mo. 301 215 201 264 244 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% -7% 31% -8% -19%
Jackson Mo. 851 696 756 781 749 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -18% 9% 3% -4% -12%
Johnson Mo. 202 86 118 155 145 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -57% 37% 31% -6% -28%
Joplin Mo. 54 27 22 20 46 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -50% -19% -9% 130% -15%
Lewis Mo. 9 8 14 13 13 3/10/20 7/13/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% 75% -7% 0% 44%
Marion Mo. 81 58 67 81 89 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -28% 16% 21% 10% 10%
McDonald Mo. 35 39 49 47 40 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 11% 26% -4% -15% 14%
Saline Mo. 57 41 55 57 59 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -28% 34% 4% 4% 4%
Stone Mo. 65 70 49 49 60 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 8% -30% 0% 22% -8%
Big Horn Mont. 38 44 37 20 37 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 16% -16% -46% 85% -3%
Lewis and Clark Mont. 106 109 112 100 103 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 3% 3% -11% 3% -3%
Ravalli Mont. 41 47 49 55 47 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 15% 4% 12% -15% 15%
Valley Mont. 42 28 34 27 18 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% 21% -21% -33% -57%
Alamance N.C. 363 220 237 247 282 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -39% 8% 4% 14% -22%
Burke N.C. 135 120 119 142 112 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% -1% 19% -21% -17%
Cabarrus N.C. 327 196 189 248 270 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% -4% 31% 9% -17%
Carteret N.C. 167 110 101 101 100 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -34% -8% 0% -1% -40%
Catawba N.C. 302 217 212 274 284 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -28% -2% 29% 4% -6%
Clay N.C. 316 211 156 236 280 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% -26% 51% 19% -11%
Cleveland N.C. 325 184 218 297 297 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 18% 36% 0% -9%
Davidson N.C. 340 207 231 276 266 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -39% 12% 19% -4% -22%
Gaston N.C. 585 444 508 590 580 3/10/20 6/28/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 14% 16% -2% -1%
Guilford N.C. 1,093 780 705 790 871 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% -10% 12% 10% -20%
Lee N.C. 119 94 123 134 142 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 31% 9% 6% 19%
Lincoln N.C. 153 69 107 129 116 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -55% 55% 21% -10% -24%
Moore N.C. 140 106 148 147 157 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 40% -1% 7% 12%
Pender N.C. 89 71 76 80 86 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% 7% 5% 8% -3%
Randolph N.C. 260 201 213 229 243 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/20/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -23% 6% 8% 6% -7%
Richmond N.C. 114 77 75 80 102 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -32% -3% 7% 28% -11%
Rowan N.C. 345 237 261 346 339 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -31% 10% 33% -2% -2%
Sampson N.C. 254 167 166 220 252 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -34% -1% 33% 15% -1%
Stanly N.C. 157 96 117 140 155 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -39% 22% 20% 11% -1%
Transylvania N.C. 77 44 32 48 47 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% -27% 50% -2% -39%
Wake N.C. 1,266 1,058 1,165 1,174 1,254 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% 10% 1% 7% -1%
Washington N.C. 457 306 280 336 358 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% -8% 20% 7% -22%
Stutsman N.D. 47 35 41 49 43 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% 17% 20% -12% -9%
Williams N.D. 91 115 118 87 68 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 26% 3% -26% -22% -25%
Bergen N.J. 618 290 336 413 388 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -53% 16% 23% -6% -37%
Cumberland N.J. 341 251 292 324 351 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% 16% 11% 8% 3%
Ocean N.J. 329 254 314 274 287 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/26/21 10/7/21 -23% 24% -13% 5% -13%
Salem N.J. 303 270 342 356 344 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% 27% 4% -3% 14%
Curry N.M. 184 158 155 164 152 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 8/16/21 -14% -2% 6% -7% -17%
Hobbs N.M. 12 13 18 15 7 3/10/20 7/8/20 1/5/21 7/5/21 9/20/21 8% 38% -17% -53% -42%
Lea N.M. 238 135 134 156 17 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% -1% 16% -89% -93%
San Juan N.M. 519 319 443 558 518 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -39% 39% 26% -7% 0%
Monroe N.Y. 1,538 1,192 1,422 1,432 709 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -22% 19% 1% -50% -54%
Hall Nebr. 276 207 201 216 254 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -25% -3% 7% 18% -8%
Lancaster Nebr. 629 471 584 610 635 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 9/14/21 -25% 24% 4% 4% 1%
Lincoln Nebr. 117 109 109 153 138 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -7% 0% 40% -10% 18%
Adams Ohio 43 41 18 38 34 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -5% -56% 111% -11% -21%
Clermont Ohio 379 313 341 331 353 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 9% -3% 7% -7%
Clinton Ohio 81 55 35 74 60 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -32% -36% 111% -19% -26%
Delaware Ohio 235 164 133 177 173 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -30% -19% 33% -2% -26%
Franklin Ohio 2,009 1,530 1,623 1,708 1,677 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 6% 5% -2% -17%
Gallia Ohio 59 37 47 67 49 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -37% 27% 43% -27% -17%
Guernsey Ohio 105 89 65 98 87 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% -27% 51% -11% -17%
Hamilton Ohio 1,512 1,129 1,369 1,303 1,329 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -25% 21% -5% 2% -12%
Morrow Ohio 104 59 53 122 103 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% -10% 130% -16% -1%
Ottawa Ohio 92 61 54 73 76 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -34% -11% 35% 4% -17%
Pickaway Ohio 121 116 76 97 68 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -4% -34% 28% -30% -44%
Carter Okla. 36 9 51 42 20 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -75% 467% -18% -52% -44%
Comanche Okla. 357 273 296 370 372 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 8% 25% 1% 4%
Garvin Okla. 67 57 53 62 59 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% -7% 17% -5% -12%
Okmulgee Okla. 176 212 163 133 141 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/4/21 20% -23% -18% 6% -20%
Pottawatomie Okla. 204 191 211 206 209 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -6% 10% -2% 1% 2%
Baker Ore. 32 14 24 25 18 3/10/20 7/16/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -56% 71% 4% -28% -44%
Clackamas Ore. 434 189 235 218 222 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -56% 24% -7% 2% -49%
Clatsop Ore. 58 43 44 56 54 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -26% 2% 27% -4% -7%
Douglas Ore. 206 127 133 171 123 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -38% 5% 29% -28% -40%
Harney Ore. 8 3 8 6 6 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 8/28/21 -63% 167% -25% 0% -25%
Jackson Ore. 327 268 253 264 274 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -18% -6% 4% 4% -16%
Josephine Ore. 192 158 97 183 112 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -18% -39% 89% -39% -42%
Klamath Ore. 136 71 83 107 107 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -48% 17% 29% 0% -21%
Lincoln Ore. 161 77 100 110 117 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -52% 30% 10% 6% -27%
Linn Ore. 207 122 123 144 125 3/10/20 6/29/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -41% 1% 17% -13% -40%
Marion Ore. 430 278 317 293 349 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -35% 14% -8% 19% -19%
Marion Work Center Ore. 91 39 55 59 59 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 7/16/21 -57% 41% 7% 0% -35%
Multnomah Ore. 1,122 660 797 794 748 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -41% 21% 0% -6% -33%
Polk Ore. 110 63 65 107 67 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 3% 65% -37% -39%
Tillamook Ore. 65 36 25 37 32 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -45% -31% 48% -14% -51%
Wasco Ore. 132 65 86 82 55 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -51% 32% -5% -33% -58%
Washington Ore. 878 544 416 557 585 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -38% -24% 34% 5% -33%
Yamhill Ore. 167 62 77 83 107 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -63% 24% 8% 29% -36%
Clinton Pa. 46 44 166 170 173 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -4% 277% 2% 2% 276%
Cumberland Pa. 409 230 228 281 323 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -44% -1% 23% 15% -21%
Dauphin Pa. 1,110 868 971 954 999 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 9/9/21 -22% 12% -2% 5% -10%
Lancaster Pa. 786 675 638 771 781 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% -5% 21% 1% -1%
Aiken S.C. 460 379 417 310 302 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 7/16/21 -18% 10% -26% -3% -34%
Anderson City S.C. 97 86 91 108 112 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% 6% 19% 4% 15%
Berkeley S.C. 439 298 395 420 459 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -32% 33% 6% 9% 5%
Cherokee S.C. 358 267 310 345 350 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -25% 16% 11% 1% -2%
Darlington S.C. 164 129 178 203 180 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 38% 14% -11% 10%
Kershaw S.C. 80 86 104 113 111 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 8% 21% 9% -2% 39%
Laurens S.C. 226 162 187 212 178 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -28% 15% 13% -16% -21%
Lexington S.C. 493 305 432 502 524 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -38% 42% 16% 4% 6%
Marion S.C. 7 6 1 2 1 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% -83% 100% -50% -86%
Pickens S.C. 303 228 204 248 291 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -25% -11% 22% 17% -4%
Sumter S.C. 310 265 294 325 344 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% 11% 11% 6% 11%
Clay S.D. 12 15 21 16 14 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 25% 40% -24% -13% 17%
Blount Tenn. 533 475 468 469 453 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% -1% 0% -3% -15%
Macon Tenn. 300 262 306 269 323 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% 17% -12% 20% 8%
Polk Tenn. 181 154 168 145 123 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -15% 9% -14% -15% -32%
Shelby Tenn. 1,857 1,398 1,243 1,018 1,344 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -25% -11% -18% 32% -28%
Wayne Tenn. 152 122 127 132 142 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% 4% 4% 8% -7%
Archer Tex. 26 30 25 28 18 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 15% -17% 12% -36% -31%
Bell Tex. 869 774 1,040 1,207 1,218 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% 34% 16% 1% 40%
Brown Tex. 166 152 160 159 182 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/1/21 10/7/21 -8% 5% -1% 14% 10%
Calhoun Tex. 78 88 79 91 77 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 13% -10% 15% -15% -1%
Coleman Tex. 33 30 41 32 41 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -9% 37% -22% 28% 24%
Cooke Tex. 163 153 159 145 160 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -6% 4% -9% 10% -2%
DeWitt Tex. 81 88 86 95 91 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 9% -2% 10% -4% 12%
Ellis Tex. 375 303 371 442 532 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -19% 22% 19% 20% 42%
Erath Tex. 80 64 76 107 110 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/26/21 10/7/21 -20% 19% 41% 3% 38%
Galveston Tex. 997 853 962 1,057 1,049 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% 13% 10% -1% 5%
Hopkins Tex. 159 186 168 170 201 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 17% -10% 1% 18% 26%
Jim Wells Tex. 62 56 43 49 68 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -10% -23% 14% 39% 10%
Lavaca Tex. 27 21 10 25 23 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 8/2/21 10/7/21 -22% -52% 150% -8% -15%
Lubbock Tex. 1,255 1,285 1,228 1,360 1,315 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 8/1/21 2% -4% 11% -3% 5%
Parmer Tex. 28 22 26 26 38 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 18% 0% 46% 36%
Polk Tex. 188 161 199 195 213 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% 24% -2% 9% 13%
Randall Tex. 416 381 409 410 404 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -8% 7% 0% -1% -3%
Rockwall Tex. 226 221 201 202 221 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -2% -9% 0% 9% -2%
Terry Tex. 84 89 88 82 88 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 6% -1% -7% 7% 5%
Titus Tex. 133 94 73 83 88 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% -22% 14% 6% -34%
Tom Green Tex. 393 421 423 487 565 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 7% 0% 15% 16% 44%
Wharton Tex. 145 103 99 118 121 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% -4% 19% 3% -17%
Salt Lake Utah 2,142 1,188 1,415 1,688 1,780 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -45% 19% 19% 5% -17%
Blue Ridge Bedford Va. 100 79 92 100 95 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 16% 9% -5% -5%
Blue Ridge Halifax Va. 180 176 186 40 159 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -2% 6% -78% 298% -12%
Blue Ridge Lynchburg Va. 470 394 512 526 324 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% 30% 3% -38% -31%
Chesapeake Va. 1,031 908 1,000 1,008 957 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% 10% 1% -5% -7%
Danville Va. 364 321 310 275 273 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% -3% -11% -1% -25%
Middle Peninsula Va. 178 156 155 176 152 3/10/20 6/29/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% -1% 14% -14% -15%
Middle River Va. 901 730 856 759 770 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -19% 17% -11% 1% -15%
Norfolk Va. 935 685 930 956 888 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -27% 36% 3% -7% -5%
Pamunkey Va. 391 310 397 417 386 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 28% 5% -7% -1%
Riverside Va. 1,376 1,144 1,245 1,231 1,026 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -17% 9% -1% -17% -25%
Roanoke Va. 172 152 198 176 146 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% 30% -11% -17% -15%
Virginia Beach Va. 1,509 1,142 1,298 1,249 1,146 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 14% -4% -8% -24%
Virginia Peninsula Va. 377 317 330 379 353 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -16% 4% 15% -7% -6%
Western Virginia Va. 944 746 765 843 745 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/5/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% 3% 10% -12% -21%
Chelan Wash. 197 158 165 140 122 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -20% 4% -15% -13% -38%
Clallam Forks Wash. 17 10 9 19 11 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -41% -10% 111% -42% -35%
Clark Wash. 663 422 398 366 354 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -36% -6% -8% -3% -47%
Grays Harbor Wash. 180 142 123 118 116 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -21% -13% -4% -2% -36%
Grays Harbor Aberdeen Wash. 22 16 5 14 8 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -27% -69% 180% -43% -64%
Grays Harbor Hoquiam Wash. 31 27 17 13 14 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% -37% -24% 8% -55%
Island Wash. 68 44 37 41 40 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -35% -16% 11% -2% -41%
Jefferson Wash. 30 22 17 26 17 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -27% -23% 53% -35% -43%
King Issaquah Wash. 57 34 28 34 29 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -40% -18% 21% -15% -49%
Kitsap Wash. 385 236 282 262 243 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/6/21 -39% 19% -7% -7% -37%
Klickitat Wash. 40 32 31 40 39 3/10/20 7/8/20 1/4/21 7/7/21 10/7/21 -20% -3% 29% -3% -3%
Lewis Wash. 192 169 154 164 141 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% -9% 6% -14% -27%
Okanogan Wash. 161 91 94 88 83 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 3% -6% -6% -48%
Skagit Wash. 280 155 167 172 182 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -45% 8% 3% 6% -35%
Skamania Wash. 25 22 23 13 22 3/10/20 7/6/20 2/16/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -12% 5% -43% 69% -12%
Snohomish Wash. 747 444 501 467 404 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -41% 13% -7% -13% -46%
Snohomish Lynnwood Wash. 49 9 20 16 13 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -82% 122% -20% -19% -73%
Snohomish Marysville Wash. 35 11 13 20 10 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -69% 18% 54% -50% -71%
Thurston Olympia Wash. 23 13 16 7 17 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -43% 23% -56% 143% -26%
Walla Walla Wash. 89 79 66 57 55 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -11% -16% -14% -4% -38%
Whatcom Wash. 291 206 218 216 263 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -29% 6% -1% 22% -10%
Whitman Wash. 31 18 25 24 22 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -42% 39% -4% -8% -29%
Yakima Wash. 879 449 567 595 579 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -49% 26% 5% -3% -34%
Brown Wis. 719 588 706 653 692 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -18% 20% -8% 6% -4%
Eau Claire Wis. 275 193 196 198 181 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/6/21 -30% 2% 1% -9% -34%
La Crosse Wis. 152 102 111 113 87 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -33% 9% 2% -23% -43%
Lincoln Wis. 105 77 72 74 59 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -27% -6% 3% -20% -44%
Manitowoc Wis. 209 182 148 199 149 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -13% -19% 34% -25% -29%
Sawyer Wis. 114 87 119 111 73 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -24% 37% -7% -34% -36%
Big Horn Wyo. 70 65 65 62 56 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -7% 0% -5% -10% -20%
Lincoln Wyo. 44 38 23 23 24 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% -39% 0% 4% -45%
Park Wyo. 42 36 34 42 42 3/10/20 7/6/20 1/4/21 7/5/21 10/7/21 -14% -6% 24% 0% 0%

We’re lucky when criminal justice data is broken down by race and ethnicity enough to see how Native populations are criminalized and incarcerated. Here’s a roundup of what we know.

by Leah Wang, October 8, 2021

This Monday is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday dedicated to Native American people, their rich histories, and their cultures. Our way of observing the holiday: sending a reminder that Native people are harmed in unique ways by the U.S. criminal justice system. We offer a roundup of what we know about Native people (those identified by the Census Bureau as American Indian/Alaska Native) who are impacted by prisons, jails, and police, and about the persistent gaps in data collection and disaggregation that hide this layer of racial and ethnic disparity.

The U.S. incarcerates a growing number of Native people, and what little data exist show overrepresentation

In 2019, the latest year for which we have data, there were over 10,000 Native people locked up in local jails. Although this population has fluctuated over the past 10 years, the Native jail population is up a shocking 85% since 2000.1 And these figures don’t even include those held in “Indian country jails,” which are located on tribal lands: The number of people in Indian country jails increased by 61% between 2000 and 2018.2 Meanwhile, the total population of Native people living on tribal lands has actually decreased slightly over the same time period, leaving us to conclude that we are criminalizing Native people at ever-increasing rates.

Incarceration in Indian Country jails and of Native people has exploded

Government data publications breaking down incarcerated populations by race or ethnicity often omit Native people, or obscure them unhelpfully in a meaningless “Other” category, perhaps because they make up a relatively small share of the total population. The latest incarceration data, however, shows that American Indian and Alaska Native people have high rates of incarceration in both jails and prisons as compared with other racial and ethnic groups. In jails, Native people had more than double the incarceration rate of white people, and in prisons this disparity was even greater.

American Indian and Alaska Native people have high rates of incarceration in both jails and prisons as compared with other racial and ethnic groupsNative women are incarcerated at a higher rate than any other race.

Native people made up 2.1% of all federally incarcerated people in 2019, larger than their share of the total U.S. population, which was less than one percent.3 Similarly, Native people made up about 2.3% of people on federal community supervision in mid-2018. The reach of the federal justice system into tribal territory is complex: State law often does not apply, and many serious crimes can only be prosecuted at the federal level, where sentences can be harsher than they would be at the state level. This confusing network of jurisdiction sweeps Native people up into federal correctional control in ways that don’t apply to other racial and ethnic groups.4

Native women are particularly overrepresented in the incarcerated population: They made up 2.5% of women in prisons and jails in 2010, the most recent year for which we have this data (until the 2020 Census data is published); that year, Native women were just 0.7% of the total U.S. female population.5 Their overincarceration is another maddening aspect of our nation’s contributions to human rights crises facing Native women, in addition to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and high rates of sexual and other violent victimization.6

Confinement of Native youth is a crisis

The rampant racial disparities in how Native youth are treated by the juvenile and criminal justice system are somewhat better-documented. Their confinement rates, second only to those of Black youth, exceed those of white, Hispanic and Asian youth combined. Forces contributing to this disparity include disproportionate arrest rates of Native youth for some offense types, the school-to-prison pipeline, and harsher outcomes for court-involved youth, particularly for low-level offenses like technical violations of probation and status offenses.

Native youth are confined at a higher rate than white, Hispanic, and Asian youth combinedNative and Black youth are confined for low level offenses at 3 times the rate of white youthArrest rates for Native youth are increasing

In absolute numbers, there are fewer Native youth than there are white, Black, Hispanic, or Asian youth, but the rate at which they are in contact with police and youth confinement facilities is alarming. Centuries of historical trauma are manifesting in Native youth as mental health and substance use issues that go untreated, and can lead to status offenses (acts that are only criminal because of one’s age, like skipping school) or other “delinquent” behavior. Once again, federal jurisdiction over tribal lands makes Native youth worse off for being swept up into criminal-legal matters at all, because they’re more likely to receive longer federal sentences and less likely to receive the services and support they need.

Even the best data collection obscures the scale and scope of Native people in the criminal justice system

There is still a long way to go to attain consistent data collection and reporting on Native populations in the criminal justice system. One glaring problem is that pesky “Other” category where we sometimes find Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, and American Indian/Alaska Native people. This is clearly an unhelpful category for uncovering bias throughout policing, courts, jails, prisons, and supervision.

One reason that even our most disaggregated data falls short is that often, people reporting two or more races are lumped into various categories depending on who is publishing the data. In 2011, the latest year for which we have this data, the single-race American Indian/Alaska Native jail population was 12,100 while the total number of people who included a Native identity was over 70,000. This reporting makes it clear that Native people are overrepresented among the incarcerated populations, but we don’t always see the data presented in a way that highlights this disparity.7

The numb er of Native people in jail depends on how you count them

Even great strides in this area will likely not give us tribal-level data. Native American people are not a monolith; there are 574 federally recognized Native American tribes as of March 2020. On a day that some are beginning to dedicate to Native people, rather than the people seeking to erase them, it’s critical to understand how Native people on both tribal and non-tribal lands are overcriminalized.

 

 

Footnotes

  1. The Native population in local jails was 10,200 in 2019, up from 5,500 in 2000 – an 85% increase. The growth of the Native population in jails far outpaced the growth of the total jail population over the same period: Overall, local jail populations grew 18% from 2000 to 2019. (Before 2000, in reporting jail populations, the Bureau of Justice Statistics combined the American Indian/Native Alaskan population with Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders into an “Other” category.)  ↩

  2. The term “Indian country,” in this context, is a legal term referring to land within American Indian reservations and other Native communities and allotments. The Bureau of Justice Statistics collects and publishes data about jail facilities on these lands separately from other locally-operated jails in the U.S. According to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the term “Indian Country” – with a capital “C” – “is used with positive sentiment within Native communities, by Native-focused organizations such as NCAI, and news organizations such as Indian Country Today.”  ↩

  3. Based on U.S. Census Bureau population estimates of people identifying as non-Hispanic, and American Indian/Native Alaskan alone or in combination with one or more other races.  ↩

  4. The remote nature of tribal lands in relation to federal buildings like courthouses, parole offices and prisons also makes it difficult to comply with post-release supervision, make court dates, or visit incarcerated loved ones. For the same reason, Native people are consistently underrepresented on federal trial juries, despite being constitutionally mandated to be fairly represented on them. These are examples of how Native people are harmed and shut out by the federal justice system.  ↩

  5. The number of Native women in both the U.S. population and the incarcerated population (defined as non-Hispanic, single-race females) was sourced from the 2010 U.S. Census.  ↩

  6. The “jurisdictional maze” between federal and tribal authorities (described earlier in this briefing) makes it less likely that a crime of sexual violence occurring on tribal land will be prosecuted, leaving victims with little support and little choice but to continue living near those who harm them.  ↩

  7. If you expand the definition of who is Native among the general U.S. population, you’re also going to see an increase, but it’s not nearly as staggering as the six-fold increase between the narrowest and widest definitions of incarcerated Native people. In 2011, the single-race, non-Hispanic AI/AN population would be 2.3 million; including Hispanic AI/AN people would increase this figure to 3.8 million; and including multi-racial AI/AN people would increase the figure to 4.1 million, only a 1.7-fold increase from lowest to highest.  ↩


This week, the Prison Policy Initiative filed comments urging the FCC to take steps to lower jail phone costs and stop unfair practices by the correctional phone industry.

by Stephen Raher, September 29, 2021

On September 27, Prison Policy Initiative filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission, explaining what the agency should do to lower phone costs for people in jail and address unfair practices in the correctional phone industry.

For nearly two decades, the FCC has worked in fits and starts to address high prices and other problems with communications services in jails and prisons. In May, the commission slightly lowered rates for some callers and announced its intent to further revise the rules applicable to the phone companies. This week was the deadline for parties to file comments on the next round of new rules.

Our comments provide the following new evidence to help guide the FCC’s decision-making:

We also make several legal arguments, urging the FCC to:

  • Lower the amount that companies can charge as “ancillary fees” (for things like depositing money into a prepaid phone account).
  • Reduce consumers’ phone bills by waiving Universal Service Fund taxes on prison and jail phone calls.
  • Crack down on deceptive practices that steer people to unnecessarily expensive options. For example, someone who was just arrested will probably not know about the confusing calling options, and phone companies often encourage people to pick the most expensive option when calling their family to ask for help.
  • Not make family members pay for facility security costs through their phone bills (for example, expenses like monitoring phone calls and maintaining lists of blocked numbers).
  • Collect more data that will allow the agency to refute some of the long-running (and factually suspect) arguments made by the dominant correctional phone companies.

Several other allies filed comments as well. Replies are due at the end of October, and it will likely take the FCC months or even years to issue new rules.


Stephen is joining the Prison Policy Initiative as General Counsel.

by Jenny Landon, September 16, 2021

Stephen Raher

This week we’re excited to officially add Stephen Raher to the Prison Policy Initiative staff roster after years of working with him as a volunteer. Stephen is joining as Prison Policy Initiative’s general counsel. He worked as a criminal justice reform advocate in Colorado for several years before going to law school. Prior to joining Prison Policy Initiative, Stephen worked as a litigator and bankruptcy lawyer, both in private practice and as an attorney in the federal court system. For many of those years, he was also an active volunteer with Prison Policy Initiative’s Young Professionals Network.

Stephen has written several pieces about the sale of goods and services to incarcerated people, including our report The Company Store: A Deeper Look at Prison Commissaries. His advocacy against financial exploitation includes spearheading our campaign to expose the abusive release card industry, and authoring rulemaking comments regarding the financial privacy rights of families of the incarcerated. Stephen has also supported the Prison Policy Initiative’s groundbreaking work on telecommunications and technology in correctional facilities, authoring our report on electronic messaging, exploring problems with computer tablets for incarcerated people, and submitting comments to the FCC, among other projects.

Stephen lives and works in Portland, Oregon. He holds a J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Colorado. He is admitted to practice law in the state of Oregon and Washington.

Welcome to the team, Stephen!


by Wanda Bertram, September 10, 2021

As people in jail and their families struggle to stay connected during the pandemic, we’ve collected the data on the exploitative prices families are forced to pay in Wisconsin for phone calls with incarcerated loved ones. This data already sparked an investigative report last month in the Appleton Post-Crescent.

People in jail in Wisconsin are charged different rates for phone calls depending on where they are locked up. In some jails, rates are as high as $14.77 for a 15-minute call–nearly a dollar a minute. The revenue fills the coffers of jails and of their corporate partners (who actually provide the phone service), Post-Crescent reporter Chris Mueller explains:

Brown County, for example, gets 54% of the revenue from phone calls made at its jail, totaling about $34,800 in January, about $32,000 in February and about $42,200 in March.

Other counties get a larger share of the money. Chippewa County, for example, gets 76%, totaling about $2,600 in December, about $3,100 in January and about $2,600 in February. Barron County gets 82%, amounting to about $2,400 in December, about $1,400 in January and about $1,700 in February.

Meanwhile, the people who pay are low-income, working-class Wisconsin residents:

“I don’t know anyone who has an incarcerated loved one who doesn’t work more than one job,” said [Peggy] West-Schroder.

West-Schroder would typically spend at least $20 a week on phone calls, though that amount would vary if her husband was transferred to a different facility or, for whatever reason, had limited access to the phone.

TMJ4, a Milwaukee news station, recently ran another powerful story about the consequences of making jail phone calls expensive. The story focuses on a woman named Ouida Lock, who has two sons in prison, and was forced to spend nearly $6,000 on phone calls over eight years. As Lock says in the story: “I can’t even fathom how much money has been spent. I know I could have bought a house by now.”

The TMJ4 story notes that costly jail phone calls have hit Black families especially hard: Black people in Wisconsin are not only overrepresented in prisons and jails; they also face the highest racial wealth gap in the country, with a Black worker earning “42 cents to every white dollar.”

Our data on Wisconsin and further resources

We’ve shared our full data set about Wisconsin jails in a table below, revealing how much money 30 county jails charge for phone calls, as well as how county jails and their phone providers split the revenue.

We also encourage readers in Wisconsin to explore our other resources on jail phone calls, including:

Phone rates and commissions in Wisconsin county jails:
A sample of 30 counties

Most jails are paid a “commission” by the phone providers they contract with. A commission is an agreed-upon share of the revenue generated when incarcerated people pay for phone calls. This table above shows data on phone rates and commission payments in Wisconsin county jails, obtained through public records requests that we sent to a sample of counties in Wisconsin. We requested records from all counties whose jail phone services are provided by Securus, because Securus’s records are standardized which makes them easier for us to review; as well as some counties served by other providers. Readers who want to explore this issue in more depth should know that jails in Wisconsin earn commissions on “collect” calls (calls that are paid for individually by the non-incarcerated recipients), “debit” calls (calls that are paid for via pre-funded accounts), or both. One county in Wisconsin, Green County, earns different commissions on both debit and collect calls. For more detail on how relationships between jails and telecom providers work, see our 2019 report State of Phone Justice.
County Provider First Minute Rate Subsequent Minute Rate 15 Minute Call Commission Contract
Adams Securus $0.25 $0.25 $3.75 50% Adams County jail phone contract
Barron Securus $0.25 $0.25 $3.75 82% Barron County jail phone contract
Brown Securus $0.29 $0.29 $4.35 54% Brown County jail phone contract
Chippewa Securus $0.91 $0.91 $13.65 76% Chippewa County jail phone contract
Columbia Securus $0.50 $0.50 $7.50 52% Columbia County jail phone contract
Dunn ICSolutions $0.16 $0.16 $2.40 60% Dunn County jail phone contract
Eau Claire Securus $0.75 $0.75 $11.25 49% Eau Claire County jail phone contract
Green Securus $5.11 $0.69 $14.77 30% of debit, 41% of collect Green County jail phone contract
Jackson Securus $0.21 $0.21 $3.15 n/a n/a
Jefferson Securus $0.12 $0.12 $1.80 55% Jefferson County jail phone contract
Juneau Securus $0.15 $0.15 $2.25 0% Juneau County jail phone contract
Kenosha GTL $0.50 $0.50 $7.50 $26,000 per month Kenosha County jail phone contract
La Crosse Securus $4.64 $0.69 $14.30 20% La Crosse County jail phone contract
Lincoln Securus $0.31 $0.31 $4.65 52% Lincoln County jail phone contract
Manitowoc Securus $0.31 $0.31 $4.65 47% Manitowoc County jail phone contract
Marathon Securus $0.50 $0.50 $7.50 78% Marathon County jail phone contract
Menominee GTL $0.55 $0.55 $8.25 n/a n/a
Milwaukee CenturyLink/ICSolutions $0.50 $0.50 $7.50 70% Milwaukee County jail phone contract
Monroe Securus $0.91 $0.91 $13.65 50.00% Monroe County jail phone contract
Polk Securus $5.11 $0.69 $14.77 44% Polk County jail phone contract
Portage Securus $0.91 $0.91 $13.65 n/a Portage County jail phone contract
Price Securus $0.21 $0.21 $3.15 10% Price County jail phone contract
Racine Securus $1.00 $0.50 $8.00 n/a n/a
Rusk Securus $2.98 $0.48 $9.70 65% Rusk County jail phone contract
Sheboygan Securus $0.12 $0.12 $1.80 54% Sheboygan County jail phone contract
Vernon Securus $0.12 $0.12 $1.80 0% Vernon County jail phone contract
Vilas GTL $0.37 $0.37 $5.55 n/a n/a
Waukesha Securus $5.03 $0.20 $7.83 n/a n/a
Waupaca Securus $0.91 $0.91 $13.65 60% Waupaca County jail phone contract
Wood ICSolutions $0.21 $0.21 $3.15 47% Wood County jail phone contract

How a 5-year moratorium on prison and jail construction in Massachusetts could flip the script in the fight against jail and prison expansion.

by Naila Awan, August 30, 2021

While the most visible fights against jail and prison expansion are often defensive—taking place in city council chambers or appearing on ballots—an old idea has gained new traction and is changing what these fights could look like going forward.

Massachusetts-based advocates are not only opposing a $50 million proposal to build a new women’s prison in the state, but they are seeking to place a 5-year moratorium on building new—or expanding existing—jails and prisons in Massachusetts. A bill that would establish this 5-year moratorium, S. 2030, has been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature.1

Alongside local groups, the Prison Policy Initiative submitted written testimony in support of S. 2030, urging the legislature to implement reforms that would reduce the number of people incarcerated in the state.

Why a 5-year moratorium?

A 5-year moratorium provides opportunity to advance reforms to reduce unnecessary incarceration before even contemplating an increase in the capacity of the state or counties to lock more people up. This window is critical because fights against jail and prison expansion can be a year in, year out effort, and the opportunity costs of these perennial fights are enormous.

Recent examples have shown that government entities can often be relentless in their efforts to expand jails or prisons. Counties routinely bring rejected proposals for jail expansion to the ballot year after year, disregarding the lack of community support. For example, Otsego County, Michigan has revived a proposal to expand its jail that will appear on November’s ballot, despite the fact that a jail expansion proposal was rejected by voters just six months earlier.2 Greene County, Ohio has done the same.3

The proposed moratorium in Massachusetts would allow the time and resources devoted to fighting jail and prison expansion proposals each year to be instead devoted to discussing and advancing reforms that would change the state’s criminal legal system and reduce incarceration. It also would provide the state an opportunity to realize the full impact of recent criminal justice reforms that have been adopted to reduce incarceration.

More states should consider moratoriums on prison and jail expansion, like the one being considered in Massachusetts, because they give lawmakers, advocates, and residents the opportunity to engage in a critical analysis of what could more effectively address public health and safety than mass incarceration and its many related harms.

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Fighting jail expansion where you live? See our Tools for Fighting Jail Expansion.

 
 

Footnotes

  1. Legislation establishing moratoriums on jail or prison construction have also recently been pursued in other places. For example, H.B. 40 in the New Mexico legislature, the Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act, prohibits “enter[ing] into, renew[ing] or modify[ing]” any agreement that would “increase the capacity of a detention facility” that is “owned, managed, or operated, in whole or in part, by a private entity.” In addition, language that has been proposed for the BREATHE Act includes a provision that would require the Bureau of Prisons to “immediately enact a moratorium on all new federal prison, . . . immigrant, and youth criminal-legal detention center construction.”  ↩

  2. The fight in Otsego has been happening for fifteen years and the most recent proposals have been put forth by a biased and misleading jail assessment.  ↩

  3. The Prison Policy Initiative also submitted testimony against Greene County’s jail expansion proposal.  ↩









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