States and counties are finding it hard to keep jails and prisons open as the virus ravages both prisoners and staff members. But transferring inmates can spur new outbreaks.
Battered by a wave of coronavirus infections and deaths, local jails and state prison systems around the United States have resorted to a drastic strategy to keep the virus at bay: Shutting down completely and transferring their inmates elsewhere.
From California to Missouri to Pennsylvania, state and local officials say that so many guards have fallen ill with the virus and are unable to work that abruptly closing some correctional facilities is the only way to maintain community security and prisoner safety.
Experts say the fallout is easy to predict: The jails and prisons that stay open will probably become even more crowded, unsanitary and disease-ridden, and the transfers are likely to help the virus proliferate both inside and outside the walls.