Policy and public communication methods among U.S. state prisons during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Health Justice. 2022 Sep 1;10(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s40352-022-00187-5.


Background: Throughout the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, our research team monitored and documented policy changes in United States (U.S.) prison systems. Data sources included prison websites and official prison social media accounts. Over 2500 data sources relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic in U.S. prisons were located and summarized in to five different categories: 1) prevention, 2) case identification and intervention, 3) movement, 4) social communication and connection, and 5) programming, recreation, and privileges.

Results: All state prison systems reportedly enacted multiple policies intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Document analysis revealed that the most commonly released policies were restrictions on social contacts and privileges, basic preventive measures (e.g., distribution of masks), and basic case identification measures (e.g., verbal screening and temperature checks). Utilization of social media for policy communication varied significantly across states, though relevant data was more often released on Facebook than Twitter.

Conclusions: Together, our work provides foundational knowledge on the wide breadth of policies that were reportedly enacted in the first year of the pandemic that may be used as a base for quantitative work on policy effectiveness and examinations of implementation.

Keywords: COVID-19; Infection control; Policy; Prison; Visitation.