Federal Prison System Goes Into Lockdown Mode To Prevent Virus Outbreak

The Bureau of Federal Prisons (BOP) issued an order this week, directing all prisons to lockdown facilities and keep inmates in cells for two weeks. The order will affect 122 federal prison facilities across the country.

Bureau Director Michael Carvajal activated "Phase 5 of its COVID-19 Action Plan" on April 1. Here are the following "Phase 5" actions that BOP will conduct to "further mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19:"

  • For a 14-day period, inmates in every institution will be secured in their assigned cells/quarters to decrease the spread of the virus. This modification to our action plan is based on health concerns, not disruptive inmate behavior.
  • 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.
  • In addition, the Bureau is coordinating with the United States Marshals Service (USMS) to significantly decrease incoming movement during this time.
  • After 14 days, this decision will be reevaluated and a decision made as to whether or not to return to modified operations.
  • Limited group gathering will be afforded to the extent practical to facilitate commissary, laundry, showers, telephone, and Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS) access.

However, "Phase 5" did not include any new measures that would protect guards and other prison staff employees from contracting the virus.

Last week, the BOP said it had "increased" COVID-19 screening for inmates and staff as cases and deaths surged across the country. New prisoners are to be quarantined for two weeks before placed into the system, while no visitors are allowed during the pandemic.

 

We recently noted that the pandemic had turned the country's jails and prisons into ticking time bombs that could amplify the public health crisis.

The prison system across the country has been thrown into crisis. Earlier this week, chief doctor at Rikers Island, New York City's largest jail, warned that a "public health disaster is unfolding before our eyes."

In California, 3,500 prisoners were released early this week to reduce the spreading of the virus in the jail system. The trend across the country has been much of the same, as prisoners test positives for the infection, more are being released early to avoid an outbreak.