Covid-19 five times deadlier in Brazil’s prison system

prison covid-19 inmates
Covid-19 fears sparked a riot in a Manaus jail. Photo: Chico Batata/GAM

According to data recently released by the National Penitentiary Department, the Covid-19 lethality rate in the Brazilian prison system is five times higher than that of the outside population. The first coronavirus case in a Brazilian jail was confirmed on April 8. In the 23 days that followed, 239 inmates have tested positive and 13 have died, representing a lethality rate of almost 5.5 percent. That amounts to a 5.5-percent lethality rate. 

Meanwhile, among the general public, the first 23 days after the first confirmed infection on February 26 saw just 621 cases and six deaths, a lethality rate of 0.96 percent.

As The Brazilian Report‘s Brenno Grillo wrote in April, Brazil had 750,000 inmates cramped in jails that have a combined capacity to house only 460,000 people — according to June 2019 data. That massive overcrowding makes social isolation impossible and turns penitentiaries into breeding grounds for the coronavirus. 

Over the weekend, inmates in a Manaus prison staged a riot and took guards as hostages for five hours, reportedly protesting degrading conditions within jails that sparked fears of a Covid-19 explosion within the facility.