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Publication Impact of COVID-19 on the Local Jail Population, January-June 2020

Todd D. Minton, Zhen Zeng, Ph.D., Laura M. Maruschak, BJS Statisticians

March 10, 2021    NCJ 255888

This report describes the impact of COVID-19 on the local jail population during the 6-month period from January to June 2020, including the impact on the release of jail inmates, admissions to jails, jail capacity, and incarceration rates. It includes data on COVID-19 tests and data on confirmed and suspected deaths due to COVID-19 among jail inmates and staff.


  • Local jails in the United States experienced a large decline (down 185,400 inmates) in their inmate populations from June 30, 2019 to June 30, 2020, which can be attributed mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on local jails began in March 2020, with a drop of 18% in the inmate population between the end of February and the end of March, followed by an 11% drop by the end of April.
  • From March to June 2020, about 208,500 inmates received expedited release in response to COVID-19.
  • During the pandemic, jail facilities became less crowded, as indicated by the decrease in occupied bed space from 81% at midyear 2019 to 60% at midyear 2020.

Press Release (32K)
Summary (PDF 195K)
Full report (PDF 743K)
Data tables (Zip format 30K)

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About the Source Data
Annual Survey of Jails (ASJ)
Census of Jails (COJ)

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