How the Pandemic Exposed the Cruelties of Incarceration

Haymarket Books (September 10, 2024)

Trade paper • ISBN-13:  9798888902561 • US $19.99 • 5.5 in x 8.5 in • 288 pgs.


Tracing the lives of five incarcerated individuals, Corridors of Contagion speaks to the devastating impact of surviving the pandemic inside prison walls. 

Corridors of Contagion brings to light the experiences of five people incarcerated across the United States as they navigate the initial terrors of the pandemic—and the many months, stretched into years, that followed. Journalist Victoria Law combines this storytelling with a trenchant analysis of the structural failures of the US carceral system that made prisons uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks, from overcrowding to insufficient healthcare to life sentences.

The book portrays the horrors of continual lockdowns not in the comfort of one’s own home, but in prisons where routine violence and chaos is made even more unimaginable by the complete lack of control over protection from a terrifying and lethal new virus. The pandemic provided an opportunity for lawmakers and policy makers to rethink the nation’s addiction to perpetual punishment. Instead, US jails and prisons doubled down on punishment under the guise of pandemic protections. As a result, people behind bars experienced increased stress, mental health challenges, increased violence, and higher rates of deaths, many of which could have been prevented.

While the pandemic emergency has been declared over, we are continuing to learn more about the extent of its destruction. Corridors of Contagion reminds readers about both the particular horrors experienced by people in cages and the continued role of the US as the world’s prison nation. 


“With her characteristic evocative storytelling, compelling prose, and razor sharp analysis, Victoria Law delivers another searing look inside the nation’s systems of punishment. Law turns an unflinching eye on the cruel operation of structures of punishment in the context of a global pandemic, in which the prison, jailers, and systemic denial of the most basic forms of health care, information, and agency exacerbate their death-making and disabling functions. Law surfaces critical lessons along with defiant acts of humanity, love, and resilience, inviting readers to not turn away from the horrors of prisons but instead to turn toward futures free of them.”

Andrea J. Ritchie, co-lead COVID19 Policing Project, co-founder of Interrupting Criminalization, and co-author of No More Police: A Case for Abolition

Corridors of Contagion is an expertly reported account of the malice and incompetence that defined how US prisons and jails responded to the pandemic. Guided by the voices of incarcerated people, journalist Victoria Law shows incontrovertibly what abolitionists on both sides of the walls insisted in March 2020: prison is incompatible with public health.”

Dan Berger, author of Stayed on Freedom: The Long History of Black Power Through One Family’s Journey

“Victoria Law has meticulously and compassionately documented the often-ignored ways in which the pandemic, in tandem with the brutality of the criminalization system, has wreaked havoc on incarcerated people. Powerfully written and deeply reported, Corridors of Contagion is both a heartbreaking chronicle of injustice and a profound celebration of how people take care of each other in dire times. This book is an essential tool in our struggle to avoid repeating a lethal chapter in history.”

Maya Schenwar, co-author of Prison by Any Other Name


Victoria Law is an author and freelance journalist focusing on the intersections of incarceration, gender and resistance. Her books include Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated WomenPrison By Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reform, and “Prisons Make Us Safer” and 20 Other Myths About Mass Incarceration.


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