Sen Gillibrand: Prisoner Safety During Covid-19 Situation

April 3, 2020

From Senator Gillibrand:

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pressed the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for updates regarding the response and preparation at Federal Prison Facilities for the growing coronavirus pandemic. Prison facilities face unique public health challenges as inmates and staff are unable to follow social distancing and quarantine guidelines, and individuals in federal custody may also lack access to critical hygiene products and medical services to test for or treat COVID-19.

“Federal inmates and BOP staff are incredibly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 and immediate steps must be taken to protect these populations from this dangerous disease,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I urge the DOJ and BOP to ensure that all federal prison facilities are taking steps to protect public health and reduce the number of inmates and staff potentially spreading coronavirus amongst themselves and the broader public.”

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Michael Carvajal, Senator Gillibrand called on the DOJ and BOP to provide clear guidance on how BOP facilities can protect staff and inmates from the spread of coronavirus. The letter also insists on guidance to US Attorney’s Offices around the country to reduce the number of people entering federal detention by prioritizing efforts to pursue probation, supervised release, and pretrial release for current inmates where appropriate; and guidance to use existing measures to release inmates who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

As COVID-19 spreads across the country and reports emerge that inmates and staff at BOP facilities have already tested positive, advocates are concerned about the lack of action to protect the public health of prison populations. Due to confined spaces, overcrowding, and lack of hygiene and sanitary products, prison facilities have the ability to act as COVID-19 incubators amongst inmates and staff.