(WASHINTON, D.C.) – In response to evidence that Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officers failed to wear COVID-19 masks or facial coverings while deployed to protests in Washington, D.C. and Miami, Florida, Congressmen Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Bennie Thompson (MS-02) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) wrote to BOP Director Michael Carvajal requesting information on the precautions the agency would take to limit the further spread of COVID-19 to inmate populations as federal penitentiaries remain vulnerable to outbreaks.

Citing public statements from the BOP and recent reporting, the lawmakers outlined the demonstrated vulnerability of prisons to COVID-19 outbreaks, the risk of BOP staff serving as vectors between prison populations and outside communities, and confirmed cases of troops deployed in response to protests testing positive for the disease:

On May 1, 2020, the BOP stated that 70% of all inmates tested for COVID-19 in federal prisons were positive. Medical directors at certain facilities have stated that inmate infection most likely comes from BOP staff members.

On May 21, 2020, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, Congressman Donald McEachin, and Congressman Morgan Griffith sent you a letter sharing concerns expressed by FCI Petersburg staff about health standards concerns at their facility. Specifically, staff asserted that both inmates and staff are not being provided sufficient amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), and there are continued inmate transfers between facilities without regard for COVID-19 infection rates. Officers from this facility were among those deployed to protests in Washington, DC, and according to reports they did not wear masks or facial coverings.

On June 9, 2020, members of DC National Guard who responded to the protests tested positive for COVID-19, according to military representatives, raising concerns about BOP and other personnel who responded to the protests.

To address their concerns about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on prisoners and the evidence of BOP officers not taking recommended precautions to prevent the spread of the virus during their deployment, the lawmakers asked BOP Director Carvajal for the following information:

  1. List all federal facilities that BOP staff have or will return to after being deployed in Washington, DC, and Miami, Florida. 
  2. Share any information available to the BOP about COVID-19 spread among staff and inmates at these facilities.
  3. Will all BOP staff deployed to Washington, DC, and Miami, Florida self-quarantine for a 14-day incubation period?
  4. Will all BOP staff deployed to Washington, DC, and Miami, Florida receive diagnostic testing for COVID-19 infection?
  5. In the affirmative, state whether all BOP staff deployed to Washington, DC, and Miami, Florida received diagnostic testing for active COVID-19 infection before travelling to these two cities.
  6. Will precautions be taken to protect individuals at facilities with returning BOP staff from COVID-19? If so, what?

The lawmakers requested answers from the agency by June 17, 2020 as well as an update on the COVID-19 rates among the BOP staff in question two weeks after, on July 1, 2020.

 A full copy of the letter is available here.