(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and the Maryland Congressional Delegation, including Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Andy Harris, M.D., Anthony G. Brown, and David Trone, wrote to Attorney General Barr urging him to take action to stop the spread of COVID-19 in federal correctional facilities in order to protect incarcerated individuals, federal employees, and the surrounding communities.
“We urge you to direct the Bureau of Prisons to take steps to ensure that federal correctional staff, including both prison guards and health staff, receive adequate supplies of PPE, regular testing, and health care support, including full pay if they become sick with the virus,” wrote the Delegation. “We believe that correctional staff, including both guards and health staff, should now be treated as essential employees. We also urge you to consider treating prison guards as federal law enforcement officers and provide them the same protections as first responders that are putting their lives on the line every day.”
The letter focuses on issues reported at the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Cumberland in Western Maryland, Chesapeake Detention Center (CDC) in Baltimore, and the Central Detention Facility and Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington, D.C.
“We were encouraged by your memorandum dated March 26, 2020, directing the Bureau to prioritize the use of its statutory authorities to grant home confinement for inmates seeking transfer in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, particularly at-risk individuals incarcerated for nonviolent crimes and who pose a minimal risk of recidivism,” the letter continues. “These measures will go a long way in saving lives, and we encourage swift implementation of these new measures by the Department. Furthermore, we encourage your active participation in the coming discussions for the next COVID-19 legislative package.”
The full letter may be found here.