Incarceration after COVID: how the pandemic could permanently change jails and prisons

Across Wisconsin, the pandemic pushed prisons and jails to work quickly to lower their numbers of prisoners, in some cases accelerating reforms that had been planned apart from virus containment. Incarceration hit a 20-year low in December 2020 through a variety of mechanisms, including issuing citations instead of arresting; limiting arrests for parole violations or on old warrants; and using electronic monitoring. Some jails saw fewer coronavirus infections, as well as population numbers averaging much lower than before. But a backlogged court system has reversed some of the gains.

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