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Federal prisons start 14-day lockdown to fight virus

April 2nd, 2020 by WCBC Radio

Federal prisons are ordering inmates confined to their cells for the next two weeks in order to fight spread of the coronavirus in the cramped confines of U.S. government-run penal institutions.

The lockdown will begin Wednesday and could be extended, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement late Tuesday.

Some exceptions will be allowed in an effort to maintain normal programs and sanitation, the statement said.

“Limited group gathering will be afforded to the extent practical to facilitate commissary, laundry, showers, telephone, and [computer] access,” the Bureau’s announcement said. “During this time, to the extent practicable, inmates should still have access to programs and services that are offered under normal operating procedures, such as mental health treatment and education.”

A tally released Tuesday by the federal prison system reported 29 inmates and 30 staff have tested positive for Covid-19. Union groups have asserted the numbers are higher than the official count. One federal prisoner has died from the virus.

Criminal justice reform backers, including some lawmakers, have been pressing for immediate release of older inmates and those at particular risk due to preexisting health conditions.

“We hope you will institute aggressive measures to release medically compromised, elderly and pregnant prisoners, as well as universal testing in BOP facilities — to protect everyone … Urgent action is required because lives depend on it,” wrote Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee.

Attorney General William Barr has ordered a review of the prison population for inmates who could be sent to home confinement without jeopardizing public safety.

While Barr proposed increasing the number of inmates on home confinement, he said last week that many inmates are likely safer in prison than outside. Any releases under the new policy seem likely to be at least a week away because Barr has said he wants such prisoners to be quarantined before being sent home.

One Response to “Federal prisons start 14-day lockdown to fight virus”

  1. April 02, 2020 at 2:58 pm, mac said:

    Too little, too late.


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