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Harris asks Graham to hold hearing on spread of coronavirus in prisons

Harris asks Graham to hold hearing on spread of coronavirus in prisons
© Greg Nash

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisCollins: Biden's .9T coronavirus package won't get any Senate GOP votes House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill Biden's immigration bill could wreck his majority, but Democrats have opportunity to do the right thing MORE (D-Calif.) is calling on Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general Senate GOP campaign chief talks strategy with Trump MORE (R-S.C.) to hold a committee hearing regarding the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) response to the spread of the coronavirus in facilities. 

“Throughout BOP, there has been an astounding lack of preparedness for the pandemic,” Harris wrote in a letter to Graham on Thursday. 

She called on the senator to immediately schedule a hearing to address BOP and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) response to the COVID-19 crisis.

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BOP reported a total of 2,820 COVID-19 cases and 51 deaths among inmates, as well as 266 cases among BOP staff across federal prisons as of Wednesday. 

In her letter, Harris cited issues that she said “call for immediate oversight” of the federal prison system. 

Harris noted the case of Andrea Circle Bear, a 30-year-old woman who died of COVID-19 at a federal prison earlier this month shortly after giving birth. 

She also called out a decision to allow President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE's ex-campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNew York court rules Manafort can't be prosecuted by Manhattan DA Would Trump have gotten away with a self-pardon? History will never know Trump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts MORE to be released due to the risk of COVID-19, while “many vulnerable, low-risk inmates at highly infected prisons have been deemed ineligible for release under criteria set forth by Attorney General [William] Barr.” 

Harris said the committee needs to examine “all of the relevant decision-makers who have contributed to this crisis,” including Barr, BOP Director Michael Carvajal and wardens managing facilities where individuals have died. 

“We also need to hear from witnesses who can speak to the human impact of this crisis, including defense attorneys, advocates, and the family members and loved ones of incarcerated individuals. Without these voices, we cannot even begin to address DOJ and BOP’s deficient response to the pandemic,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for Graham was not immediately available for comment in response to Harris’s letter.