Inmates wearing masks are crammed into the central area of Izalco prison in San Salvador, El Salvador, during a security operation. (File photo)
Inmates wearing masks are crammed into the central area of Izalco prison in San Salvador, El Salvador, during a security operation. (File photo)
The Associated Press

Washington

The coronavirus tore through the US' prisons and immigration detention centres over the past year, killing more than 2,700 people who were incarcerated, a media report said.

"The deaths raise troubling questions about the way the country's justice system responded to a pandemic that infected incarcerated people at more than three times the national rate," Xinhua news agency quoted The New York Times report as saying on Friday.

The pandemic has been particularly devastating in the nation's criminal justice system: Tens of thousands of trials and parole hearings were cancelled; families said they were unable to afford even modest bail amounts amid record job losses; and facilities were ill-equipped to handle outbreaks of a virus that spread rapidly, especially in close quarters.

Some counties and states released incarcerated people during the pandemic as a precaution, but a vast majority of US states resisted calls to free inmates early or expedite parole, according to the report.

Battered by rising Covid-19 infections and deaths, local jails and state prison systems around the nation resorted to a drastic strategy to keep the virus at bay: shutting down completely and transferring their inmates elsewhere, it said.

The jails and prisons that stayed open would probably become even more crowded, unsanitary and disease-ridden, and the transfers were likely to help the virus proliferate both inside and outside the walls, the report added.

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