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Klobuchar asks Barr for answers on coronavirus outbreaks in prisons

Klobuchar asks Barr for answers on coronavirus outbreaks in prisons
© Greg Nash

Minnesota Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee Lobbying world MORE (D) is asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to address coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. prisons. 

“Reports suggest that many states and the federal prison system have struggled to protect incarcerated people from the virus. The Administration must take immediate action to assist prison systems in responding to the virus,” the former Democratic presidential candidate wrote in a letter addressed to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrGarland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Dominion: Ex-Michigan state senator 'sowing discord in our democracy' with election fraud claims MORE

In the letter she cites The Marshall Project, which reports that as of April 29, at least 14,513 people in state and federal prisons have tested positive for COVID-19, which represents a 50 percent increase from the week before. Additionally, 218 state and federal prisoners died that week, a 66 percent increase from the week before. 

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Klobuchar is asking Barr to produce any guidance the DOJ may have given state prisons to “mitigate the spread of the virus at state facilities.” 

“The Coronavirus Task Force, which was created to ‘monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus,’ did not include any representative from the Department of Justice despite the high risk to incarcerated people due to the conditions of close confinement,” Klobuchar wrote.

“Since that time, we have seen a rapid spread of the virus in state and federal correctional facilities. As testing has slowly begun to increase, states are now learning the extent to which the conditions of close confinement in state facilities has contributed to the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

Earlier this year Kloubuchar joined over a dozen of her Democratic colleagues in asking the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the three biggest private prison operators in the U.S. what contingency plans they have in place to address the impact from the coronavirus. 

The BOP responded in part by waiving phone charges for incarcerated people during the pandemic.