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April 26, 2020

The latest "official" (and hinky?) COVID numbers from the federal Bureau of Prisons

BOP's COVID-19 Update page, as of April 26, has this report of the latest data on "COVID -19 Cases":

As of 04/26/2020, there are 799 federal inmates and 319 BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide. Currently, 385 inmates and 124 staff have recovered. There have been 27 federal inmate deaths and 0 BOP staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease....

Since the release of the Attorney General's original memo to the Bureau of Prisons on March 26, 2020 instructing us to prioritize home confinement as an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BOP has placed an additional 1,576 inmates on home confinement; an increase of 55.2 percent.

As regular reader know, I have previously expressed concern that these "official" numbers are not a full reflection of the "facts on the ground." And a couple of press pieces this weekend highlight why BOP representations may not always be spot on:

From Forbes, "The Federal Bureau Of Prisons’ 'List' Has Caused Confusion In Courts And Prisons"

From the Marshall Project, "Few Federal Prisoners Released Under COVID-19 Emergency Policies"

Somewhat encouragingly, this press release from Senator Dick Durbin's office indicates that there is a bipartisan effort to review the work of BOP and DOJ in this arena:

Following the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General’s (IG) decision to assess whether facilities housing Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmates are complying with available guidance and best practices regarding preventing, managing, and containing potential COVID-19 outbreaks, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) requested that DOJ Inspector General (IG) Horowitz’s review also include the implementation of relevant legislative authorities and Attorney General directives giving BOP authority to transfer at-risk inmates to home confinement, including the recently-enacted CARES Act and the First Step Act, landmark prison reform legislation authored by Grassley and Durbin.

“We are concerned that BOP is not fully and expeditiously implementing relevant statutory authority and directives from the Attorney General.  We are also concerned about how closely BOP is following CDC guidance or taking other preventive measures to adequately protect BOP staff and inmates from the spread of COVID-19,” the Senators wrote.  “We also worry that BOP is significantly underestimating the rate of COVID-19 infection in BOP facilities because BOP has not yet conducted the number of tests on staff or inmates appropriate for facilities where a highly contagious virus can be easily spread.”

Full text of the letter from Senators Durbin and Grassley is available here.

April 26, 2020 at 11:29 PM | Permalink


The numbers still do not reflect a confirmed BOP staff death on April 14 at USP Atlanta. It has been confirmed by the BOP and widely-reported in the news. Their numbers are definitely understated.

Posted by: defendergirl | Apr 27, 2020 10:00:04 AM

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