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 HarrisBiden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Will Pence primary Trump — and win? Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law MORE (D-Calif.) is calling on Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden DACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats Senate braces for a nasty debt ceiling fight 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 TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE's ex-campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortLobbyist Tony Podesta returns to work for Huawei Former bank CEO convicted of bribery in scheme to land Trump admin job Trial begins for Chicago banker who exchanged loans with Manafort for Trump job 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.