Articles by Emily Widra
- The aging prison population: Causes, costs, and consequences
New Census Bureau data show the U.S. population is getting older — and at the same time, our prison populations are aging even faster. In this briefing, we examine the inhumane, costly, and counterproductive practice of locking up older adults.
Aug 2, 2023
- New data on HIV in prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic underscore links between HIV and incarceration
The percent of people in prison with HIV barely budged despite the heightened risks of COVID-19 to immunocompromised individuals. We review the evidence connecting the parallel epidemics of HIV and incarceration, which disproportionately impact Black men in the South.
Jun 1, 2023
- Lessons from COVID-19 can help prisons & jails prepare for the next pandemic
COVID-19 wasn’t the first virus to devastate prisons and jails…and it won’t be the last. By learning from their past failures, state and local leaders can take steps now to prepare for the next inevitable viral threat.
Apr 21, 2023
- Mortality, health, and poverty: the unmet needs of people on probation and parole
Unique survey data reveal that people under community supervision have high rates of substance use and mental health disorders and extremely limited access to healthcare, likely contributing to the high rates of mortality.
Apr 3, 2023
- How your local public housing authority can reduce barriers for people with criminal records
Millions of people with criminal records likely meet the income eligibility requirements for public housing assistance. But needlessly strict local policies lock them out of housing. We explain how your public housing authority may be overly exclusionary.
Feb 15, 2023
- Introducing our profile of Native incarceration in the U.S.
New page provides data and visualizations about the overrepresentation of Native people in the criminal legal system.
Feb 14, 2023
- How a Medicare rule that ends financial burdens for the incarcerated leaves some behind
Medicare expands enrollment periods for people released from prison after January 1, 2023, but offers no relief for people who have been paying premiums for zero Medicare benefits while incarcerated, nor for those released before 2023 who signed up late and are stuck paying jacked-up premiums for the rest of their life.
Jan 3, 2023
- Why states should change Medicaid rules to cover people leaving prison
People leaving prison have sky-high mortality rates. Most are likely Medicaid-eligible. Making sure they are covered upon release from prison would save lives and reduce recidivism.
Nov 28, 2022
- New data confirms that prisons neglected COVID-19 mitigation strategies, putting public health at risk
New data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics summarizes state policies and prison population changes from March 2020 to February 2021
Oct 13, 2022
- New data: LGBT people across all demographics are at heightened risk of violent victimization
A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics highlights just how common violent victimization is among women, LGB people, and trans people.
Jul 11, 2022
- Since you asked: Can our recent series of reports about where incarcerated people call home be adapted to talk about other populations?
The data can help researchers better understand the harms of mass incarceration.
Jun 30, 2022
- What the Survey of Prison Inmates tells us about trans people in state prison
We look at the experiences of 29 incarcerated transgender people before and during their incarceration.
Mar 31, 2022
- What does successful bail reform look like? To start, look to Harris County, Texas.
New data supports what advocates have been saying all along: there’s no need to detain so many people pretrial.
Mar 28, 2022
- The prison context itself undermines public health and vaccination efforts
A new report from the Correctional Association of New York reveals why some people in prison are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine and a lot of it has to do with distrust in the correctional system.
Mar 9, 2022
- State prisons and local jails appear indifferent to COVID outbreaks, refuse to depopulate dangerous facilities
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 and new, more transmissible variants.
Feb 10, 2022
- Since you asked: What information is available about COVID-19 and vaccinations in prison now?
Despite the new variants of COVID-19, prison systems are failing to publish up-to-date and necessary data and we don’t know much about booster shot access.
Dec 16, 2021
- Data update: As the Delta variant ravages the country, correctional systems are dropping the ball (again)
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.
Oct 21, 2021
- New data: People with incarcerated loved ones have shorter life expectancies and poorer health
Locking up the most medically vulnerable people in our society has created a public health crisis not just inside prison walls,1 but in the outside community and across....
Jul 12, 2021
- With over 2,700 deaths behind bars and slow vaccine acceptance, prisons and jails must continue to decarcerate
Just because vaccines are increasingly available does not mean that the COVID-19 crisis in prisons and jails is over - far from it. Yet new data show more prisons and jails are returning to “business as usual.”
Jun 23, 2021
- Just over half of incarcerated people are vaccinated, despite being locked in COVID-19 epicenters
Most states did not prioritize incarcerated people in their vaccination plans. As a result, seven months since the first vaccines were distributed, just 55% of people in prison have been vaccinated, leaving them vulnerable to infection.
May 18, 2021
- New data gives a detailed picture of how COVID-19 increased death rates in Florida prisons
A new publication from the UCLA COVID-19 Behind Bars team reveals that COVID-19 reduced the life expectancy of people in Florida prisons by 4 years.
Apr 27, 2021
- How much have COVID-19 releases changed prison and jail populations?
The good news is that jail and prison populations remain lower than they were before COVID-19, but it’s not obvious just how much of that is attributable to additional releases.
Feb 3, 2021
- More states need to use their “good time” systems to get people out of prison during COVID-19
Most states have statutes that allow incarcerated people to earn time off of their sentences. Why aren't more states using this tool to safely reduce prison populations during COVID-19?
Jan 12, 2021
- Since you asked: Just how overcrowded were prisons before the pandemic, and at this time of social distancing, how overcrowded are they now?
As states mandate reducing the capacity of public spaces to slow the spread of COVID-19, we collect the data to show just how overcrowded almost every state prison system still is.
Dec 21, 2020
- As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, state prisons and local jails have failed to mitigate the risk of infection behind bars
COVID infections are rising across the country. So why are we allowing jail populations to rise?
Dec 2, 2020
- No escape: The trauma of witnessing violence in prison
A recent study of recently incarcerated people finds that witnessing violence is a frequent and traumatizing experience in prison.
Dec 2, 2020
- New BJS data reveals a jail-building boom in Indian country
Across the country, local governments are building more jail space rather than working to reduce incarceration. New data shows that this trend is especially visible on tribal lands.
Oct 30, 2020
- Visualizing changes in the incarcerated population during COVID-19
Initial policy changes that resulted in quick and necessary decarceration have slowed, despite the growing infection and death rate of COVID-19 in prisons and jails.
Sep 10, 2020
- Policing resource round-up: Where to find data, advocacy materials, and more information about American policing
A list of the most valuable online resources from organizations focused on policing.
Aug 28, 2020
- Half of states fail to require mask use by correctional staff
States are not reducing their populations sufficiently to slow the spread of COVID-19, and our survey reveals that 20 states are not even requiring masks to be worn by staff and most are not requiring incarcerated people to wear them.
Aug 14, 2020
- Jails and prisons have reduced their populations in the face of the pandemic, but not enough to save lives
Our updated analysis finds that the initial efforts to reduce jail populations have slowed, while the small drops in state prison populations are still too little to save lives.
Aug 5, 2020
- New research: Adjusted for age and sex, the COVID-19 death rate in prisons is 3 times higher than in the general population
New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows the tragic results of states' negligence of incarcerated people.
Jul 8, 2020
- What do we know about the spread — and toll — of the coronavirus in state prisons?
Wide variation in the rates of reported infections and deaths in state prisons reflect the uneven spread of the virus and disparate responses by state criminal justice systems.
Jun 24, 2020
- Compassionate release was never designed to release large numbers of people
With help from artist Kevin Pyle, we explain why very few people who apply for compassionate release are approved — even during a pandemic.
May 29, 2020
- When parole doesn’t mean release: The senseless “program requirements” keeping people behind bars during a pandemic
Parole boards are granting parole contingent on participation in programs that are often not readily available for people behind bars, especially during the pandemic.
May 21, 2020
- While jails drastically cut populations, state prisons have released almost no one
Our updated analysis finds that jails are responding to the unprecedented public health crisis by rapidly dropping their populations. In contrast, state prisons have barely budged.
May 14, 2020
- Since you asked: How many people aged 55 or older are in prison, by state?
Our table shows that more than 10% of people incarcerated in state prisons are 55 or older - and in some states, like Montana, the percentage is much higher.
May 11, 2020
- While jails drastically cut populations, state prisons have released almost no one
Our analysis finds that jails are responding to the unprecedented public health crisis by rapidly dropping their populations. In contrast, state prisons have barely budged.
May 1, 2020
- Hundreds are still jailed for technical parole violations in NYC, which means decarceration is happening far too slowly
As cities attempt to reduce their jail populations, they should pay attention to the lesson of NYC’s slow decarceration: Even releasing "low-level offenders" is a complicated process liable to be bogged down by delays.
Apr 24, 2020
- How prepared are state prison systems for a viral pandemic?
We sent state prison systems a 5-question survey, and the answers – largely – are not encouraging.
Apr 10, 2020
- Tracking the statements of Departments of Corrections on the COVID-19 virus
We provide a spreadsheet showing what each state DOC has chosen to tell the public about its virus response plan.
Apr 8, 2020
- Five ways the criminal justice system could slow the pandemic
We offer five areas where quick action could slow the spread of the viral pandemic in prisons and jails and in society as a whole.
Mar 27, 2020
- No need to wait for pandemics: The public health case for criminal justice reform
We offer five examples of policies that could slow the spread of a viral pandemic in prisons and jails - and would mitigate the everyday impact of incarceration on public health.
Mar 6, 2020
- Deaths in state prisons are on the rise, new data shows. What can be done?
Prison systems have shown they are unprepared and unwilling to care for an aging prison population - whether by improving healthcare or expanding compassionate release.
Feb 13, 2020
- How America’s major urban centers compare on incarceration rates
An index of the incarceration rates of the most populous counties in 39 states.
Mar 28, 2019
- Stark racial disparities in murder victimization persist, even as overall murder rate declines
Homicide victimization rates for Black men, Black women and Indigenous women are consistently higher than for other racial and ethnic groups.
May 3, 2018
- Actual violent crime has nothing to do with our fear of violent crime
Comparing violent crime rates to public opinion data shows that there's a long-standing disconnect between perception and reality.
May 3, 2018
- Tracking the impact of the prison system on the economy
This country employs more people to run the justice system than to grow food.
Dec 7, 2017
- Nellie Bly’s Legacy: Investigative Journalism & Criminal Justice Reform
One of the earliest and most famous investigations of conditions of confinement began 130 years ago today.
Sep 26, 2017
- The parallel epidemics of incarceration & HIV in the Deep South
HIV disproportionately impacts communities that are already marginalized by poverty, inadequate resources, discrimination — and mass incarceration.
Sep 8, 2017
- Findings from Harris County: Money bail undermines criminal justice goals
A recent study of misdemeanor pretrial detention in Harris County, Texas, offers evidence that money bail actually increases risks to public safety, affects case outcomes in ways that contribute to more incarceration, and infringes on constitutional rights.
Aug 24, 2017
- Incarceration shortens life expectancy
Each year in prison takes 2 years off an individual's life expectancy. With over 2.3 million people locked up, mass incarceration has shortened the overall U.S. life expectancy.
Jun 26, 2017
- In their own words: The value of in-person visitation to families
As sheriffs consider eliminating in-person visitation in jails, the firsthand experiences of incarcerated people and their families remind us that in-person visitation is crucial to the reentry process and reducing recidivism.
May 9, 2017
- Unpacking the connections between race, incarceration, and women’s HIV rates
Current research points to an unexpected contributor to the high rates of HIV infection among Black women: the mass incarceration of Black men.
May 8, 2017
- It’s not just the franchise: Mass incarceration undermines political engagement
Contact with the criminal justice system impacts not only individual experiences of political participation, but also community-wide political engagement.
Mar 10, 2017
- @AltBJS highlights important data on racial disparities in the criminal justice system
During Black History Month, the twitter user @AltBJS presented 28 under-discussed facts about racial disparities in the justice system. I collected the sources.
Mar 7, 2017
- Travis County, Texas: A Case Study on Video Visitation
Travis County, Texas' experience shows: video visitation often fails to meet expectations.
Apr 18, 2016
- Seeing eye to eye: understanding the limits of video visitation
Jails continue to adopt video visitation, often at the expense of in-person visits. What does current psychological research say about the key differences between video and in-person communication?
Apr 11, 2016
- Indiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas undermine their own criminal justice reform agenda with challenge of FCC regulation of prison phone industry
Just what are governors who talk about the need for prison reform doing trying to stop the FCC's historic effort to protect the families of incarcerated people from exploitative prison phone companies?
Mar 14, 2016