Maryland Graded ‘D’ for Handling COVID-19 in State Prisons, Report Says

    Maryland was ranked fifth of 50 states and the federal government for its handling of COVID-19 in prisons from the pandemic’s start to mid-2021, according to a new report from the Prison Policy Initiative. While this may seem significant, the state only received a D- for its COVID measures behind bars — a slight improvement compared to the F+ it received in 2020.

    The 2021 report published this month evaluated state correctional systems on whether they’ve implemented policies to thin prison populations and reduce admissions; cut infection and death rates in their facilities; made efforts to vaccinate the incarcerated; and provided access to hygiene products and enacted policies to bolster physical and mental health for those behind bars.

    Out of 505 points, Maryland scored 274.

    The highest-scoring state, New Jersey, only received 329 points, bringing its letter grade up from an F+ to a C.

    Maryland did excel in at least one area, according to the report.

    In regard to mental and physical health policy, the state earned a perfect score, landing the number two spot for providing masks and hygiene products at no charge, suspending medical co-pays, requiring staff to be masked and implementing policies that allow people to make free phone and video calls.

    When evaluated for reduction of its population, Maryland barely made it into the top 20, but earned points for reducing the number of people behind bars by 9.3% from March 2020 to July 1, 2021, and for implementing accelerated release, medical and compassionate release and minor offense release policies.

    The report ranked Maryland 21st for its infection and death rates and 25th for vaccination distribution based on data accessed as recently as July 1.

    According to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services COVID-19 dashboard, as of Friday, Aug. 27, there have been 4,520 total positive cases in its facilities. There are about 97 active cases among the incarcerated and prison staff, according to the department.

    Thirty-three people have died under the department’s supervision.

    Approximately 69% of the state’s incarcerated population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine since they became eligible in late April. Nearly 5,000 people have refused the vaccine.

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    Hannah Gaskill
    Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.