AFGE is calling on Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal to stop the transport of untested inmates during the coronavirus pandemic to stop the spread of the virus especially from highly contagious zones to communities across the country that have been minimally or completely unaffected.
Last week, BOP transferred at least 19 untested inmates to three federal facilities in Central Pennsylvania, including United States Penitentiaries (USP) Lewisburg and Canaan, and Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Allenwood.
Among the 19 are 11 from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., where inmates are currently being quarantined after one inmate tested positive for COVID-19.
“This is a national public safety issue that must be addressed immediately,” said Andrew Kline, president of AFGE Local 148 at USP Lewisburg. “The transferring of inmates from a high-risk area, who have not yet been tested for the coronavirus, to a lower risk area has created a state of panic amongst staff and could potentially result in a medical crisis within the facilities, the health care system, and the Central PA community.”
Earlier this month, Carvajal invoked a 30-day suspension of staff travel, attorney and social visits, and inmate transfers due to concerns over the spread of virus to the 175,000 inmates currently in Bureau of Prisons custody and BOP staff. The agency recently modified its policy stating that inmates may be moved to manage crowding issues.
“It’s a shame that the Bureau of Prisons is continuing to increase the risk of exposure to this deadly disease to its inmates and staff across the country. Safety should be the number one concern,” said Jeremy Dominick, president of AFGE Local 3003 at USP Canaan. “The majority of these inmates have not been in the custody of the BOP prior to the transfer and could potentially be infected with the virus.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while there have been more than 21,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state of New York; Pennsylvania has only reported approximately 650 positive cases. Employees at the three Central PA facilities have expressed grave concerns regarding the transfer of these inmates, citing the lack of available personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and cleaning supplies.
“BOP got it right the first time. They must revisit their COVID-19 plan to guarantee the safety of all employees and inmates, including supplying adequate amounts personal protective equipment,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “It is imperative that all transport of inmates is ceased until the COVID-19 crisis is under control.”
For the latest news and information about the coronavirus, visit www.afge.org/coronavirus.