Thursday, April 30, 2020

PBS: Over 70 percent of tested inmates in federal prisons have COVID-19

The response from the federal Bureau of Prisons to the growing COVID-19 crisis in prisons has raised alarm among advocates and lawmakers about whether the agency is doing enough to ensure the safety of the nearly 150,000 inmates serving time in federal facilities, reported PBS.
And even though officials have stressed infection and death rates inside prisons are lower compared with outside, new figures provided by the Bureau of Prisons show that out of 2,700 tests systemwide, nearly 2,000 have come back positive, strongly suggesting there are far more COVID-19 cases left uncovered.
At the same time, the Bureau of Prisons communication policies are leaving families in the dark about their loved ones’ potentially life-threatening condition.
The 59-year-old Fleming had been serving a 20-year sentence on a drug conspiracy charge. The Bureau of Prisons never notified Fleming’s family that he was taken to a hospital or when his condition declined.
“Not having the opportunity to say goodbye — that would’ve been invaluable,” the younger Fleming said. “We will never have that chance.”
Under Bureau of Prisons policy, the agency is supposed to “promptly” notify the family of inmates who have serious illnesses. But the agency, which confirmed the family wasn’t initially notified, has “discretion when making notifications,” according to a spokeswoman.
Prisons officials say they are doing the best they can under dire circumstances and following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are doing the right things to manage our population and to keep them as safe as possible at this time when we can’t provide that assurance to our average American free public that everyone is safe and secure right now with this pandemic,” said Kathy Hawk Sawyer, a senior adviser at the Bureau of Prisons who previously ran the agency twice.
As of Wednesday, 30 inmates, including Fleming, had died of the coronavirus at federal correctional facilities since late March. About 600 have recovered.
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