Failing grade for Maryland and their prison system response to COVID-19


Matt Beuschlein


More than 2,700 people in the US prison system have died from COVID-19, and one out of every three incarcerated individuals have been infected since the pandemic began. 

In a report released by the Prison Policy Initiative, Maryland received a “D-” (62%) for its response to COVID-19 in prisons, an improvement from the “F+” the state received the previous year


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While some states did well in a few areas, according to the report, no state’s response to COVID-19 in prisons has been adequate. The highest grade was a “C” with a majority of the states completely failing to protect their incarcerated populations. 

Maryland — with it’s 62% — ranked 5th when compared to other states, scoring 274 out of 445 possible points.

According to the study:

“It’s telling that not one prison system in the U.S. scored higher than a C; as a whole, the nation’s response to the pandemic behind bars has been a shameful failure. Even New Jersey and California, which scored higher than the other 49 prison systems, did not do enough to mitigate COVID-19.”


map of U.S. states showing failing grades in response to COVID-19 in prisons


Departments of corrections for each state were graded in four categories: Addressing basic health (and mental health) needs through easy policy changes, limiting the number of people in prisons, reducing infection and death rates behind bars, and vaccinating the incarcerated population.  

Maryland, along with four other states, received full points (115/115) in the addressing basic health needs through easy policy changes category. 

In the “limit the number of people in prisons” category, Maryland received 69/130 points, largely for reducing their prison population by 9.3% (20,314 down to 18,426) from March 2020 to June 2021. 

For the infection and mortality rate score, Maryland scored 49/145, with 4,477 positive COVID cases and 30 deaths. The state had a 24.3% infection rate in their prison system, which blows away their 7.5% statewide infection rate. The COVID mortality rate for the prison system matched the statewide rate at 0.16%.

In the last category, Maryland scored a 42/55 for the vaccination score with a 61.1% vaccination rate for their incarcerated population, which is just shy of the 61.8% vaccination rate for the whole state.