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June 2, 2020

Senate Judiciary Committee about to start "Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19"

At 10:00 am this morning, June 2, 2020, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled this full committee meeting on "Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19."  Here are the scheduled witnesses:

Panel I
Mr. Michael Carvajal
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Washington , DC
Dr. Jeffry D. Allen, MD
Medical Director
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Washington , DC

Disappointingly, as of this writing, there is no written testimony linked from the Senate website from any of these witnesses. If any becomes available later, I will be sure to post it.

UPDATE: I am pleased to see that there is now linked written testimony for all the witnesses listed above.  Here is the written testimony for both BOP witnesses, and here are excerpts on "Current Status" and "Home Confinement":

The Bureau manages the health and treatment of approximately 149,000 inmates in BOP facilities and RRCs.  Over half of our institutions have no COVID-19 positive cases among inmates or staff.  Indeed, two-thirds of our positive cases are in just 7 of our 122 institutions nationwide.  As of June 1, 2020, across all facilities, there are 1,650 federal inmates who are currently COVID-19 positive based on test results.  There are also currently 171 Bureau staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide, with 445 staff recovered and returning to work.

In total, from March 1, 2020, the date of the beginning of the national emergency proclaimed by President Trump, until today, 5,323 inmates total have tested positive for COVID19 and to-date, 3,784 have recovered.  More than 80 percent of infected individuals have not become significantly ill.  The number of hospitalized inmates — those who became significantly ill — is currently only 83 in total.  And in fact, the number hospitalized is on a significant downward trajectory (see attached), suggesting that our attempts to mitigate the transmission of the virus is effective.  Regrettably, there have been 68 federal inmate deaths from COVID-19.

To-date, the Bureau’s overall infection rate is approximately 4%, including clinically-probable and suspect cases, and based on the total number of inmates in custody.  The BOP's death rate of those infected is approximately 1.1% and is slightly lower than the US rate of 1.3%.  The BOP's rate of hospitalization has continued to decline over time with only 83 inmates currently hospitalized and only 22 of those on ventilators....

As the pandemic grew more widespread, the Bureau began aggressively screening the inmate population for inmates who were appropriate for transfer to RRC or Home Confinement for service of the remainder of their sentences.  On March 26, 2020 and April 3, 2020, Attorney General Barr issued memoranda to the Bureau directing us to increase the use of Home Confinement, particularly at institutions that were markedly affected by COVID-19, for vulnerable inmates.  The CARES Act, signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, further expanded our ability to place inmates on Home Confinement by lifting the statutory limitations contained in Title 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(2) during the course of the pandemic.  I am pleased to note that we currently have 6,120 inmates in RRC and 6,398 on Home Confinement.  This is an 124% increase in HC from March 26, 2020. There are an additional 985 who are scheduled to transfer to Home Confinement in the coming weeks.  While we continue to make robust strides in these placements to reduce risk of spread to the inmate population and staff, public health and safety must remain our highest priority.  The Attorney General has issued guidance as to which inmates should be considered for home confinement.  Staff are conducting individualized assessments to ensure inmates are appropriate for community placement both from a public safety perspective and given their own specific needs and circumstances.  Additionally, we must ensure inmates who release to Home Confinement have a viable residence in which to reside.

It should go without saying that while we are dedicated to the protection of our inmates’ health and safety, we also have to consider — as the Attorney General’s guidance emphasized — that inmates who presented a risk of public safety because of their criminal acts or other factors cannot be released.  Neither can we release inmates who would be worse off outside Bureau facilities than inside, such as those whose medical conditions could not be adequately cared for by health systems that are themselves overwhelmed by the response to COVID infections in the general community.  Nor can we release inmates who do not have safe housing for themselves or housing that is not subject to appropriate safeguards for home confinement, which is still, after all, a form of incarceration for persons convicted of crimes whereby such persons are still serving a federal sentence.

June 2, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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