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Jails in Indian Country, 2019-2020, and the Impact of COVID-19 on the Tribal Jail Population

NCJ Number
Todd D. Minton
Date Published
October 2021
18 pages


This report describes the number and demographics, such as age, sex, and most serious offense, of people held in Indian country jails. It provides the number of COVID-19 tests administered to persons held in Indian country jails and the percentage of tests that were positive. It includes statistics on the number of people released early due to the pandemic and how those releases impacted the occupancy rate of Indian country jails. The report also presents data on the number of staff employed in Indian country jails, their job functions, and their COVID-19 positivity rates.


  • A total of 2,020 inmates were held in 82 jails in Indian country at midyear 2020, a 30% decrease from the 2,890 inmates held in 83 facilities at midyear 2019.
  • Admissions to Indian country jails decreased 45% from June 2019 to June 2020, from 9,620 persons to 5,330.
  • The number of inmates held for a violent offense increased 8% and the number held for a nonviolent offense dropped 44% from midyear 2019 to midyear 2020.
  • From March to June of 2020, about 2,130 COVID-19 tests were conducted on inmates held in Indian county jails. About 9% of these tests were positive.
  • Of the 21,190 persons admitted to Indian country jails from March to June of 2020, about 7% (1,510) received expedited release in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • From March to June of 2020, about 5% (85) of the 1,710 staff employed in Indian country jails tested positive for COVID-19.