Democratic senators ask prison operators for answers on coronavirus plans

Democratic senators ask prison operators for answers on coronavirus plans
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Several Democratic senators on Tuesday wrote to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the three biggest private prison operators in the U.S. to ask what contingency plans they have in place to address the novel coronavirus.

In the letter, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: T-Mobile, Sprint complete merger | Warren pushes food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees | Lawsuit accuses Zoom of improperly sharing user data Warren calls on food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees Biden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP MORE (D-Mass.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal MORE (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men MORE (D-N.J.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories House bill would ban stock trading by members of Congress Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Judge slams Wisconsin governor, lawmakers for not delaying election amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump MORE (I-Vt.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Overnight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus MORE (D-Md.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzLawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate MORE (D-Hawaii), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (D-Calif.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownLawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors Democrats press Mnuchin to defend T coronavirus stimulus IG Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy MORE (D-Ohio), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocratic senators ask IRS to extend tax filing deadline amid coronavirus outbreak Democratic senators ask prison operators for answers on coronavirus plans Overnight Energy: EPA revamps 'secret science' rule | Scientists warn rule still limits research | Trump calls for full funding for conservation program | 19 states sue over border wall funding MORE (D-Hawaii), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Democratic Senators introduce bill to provide free coronavirus testing Democratic senators ask prison operators for answers on coronavirus plans MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHackers target health care AI amid coronavirus pandemic Hillicon Valley: Coronavirus deal includes funds for mail-in voting | Twitter pulled into fight over virus disinformation | State AGs target price gouging | Apple to donate 10M masks Senator sounds alarm on cyber threats to internet connectivity during coronavirus crisis MORE (D-Va.) asked what procedures prisons have in place for the potential spread of coronavirus.

In addition to the BOP, the senators sent letters to GEO Group, CoreCivic, and Management and Training Corporation.

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“Given the spread of the virus in the U.S.—and the particular vulnerability of the prison population and correctional staff—it is critical that [you] have a plan to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus to incarcerated individuals and correctional staff, along with their families and loved ones, and provide treatment to incarcerated individuals and staff who become infected,” they wrote.

The letter also asked for details on how the BOP and the private prison operators will identify inmates or staff who are at risk due to compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses, how they will monitor inmates in segregation or specialized housing for symptoms of infection, and how they will address any possible staff shortages due to the virus.

The senators also requested further information on how the institutions will isolate anyone diagnosed with the virus, whether they have enough resources to manage a potential outbreak, and how they will handle operations such as visits and transfers amid the coronavirus epidemic. The letter requested answers no later than March 16.

“Our members are working closely with their government partners as well as federal, state and local health officials to prepare for the potential threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus to both the individuals in our care and our thousands of dedicated staff members,” Alexandra Wilkes, National Spokesperson for the Day 1 Alliance, a trade group representing the three private operators, said in a statement.

“It is important to remember that our corrections and immigration processing facilities have always been required to have comprehensive plans and protocols in place to address the threat of contagious diseases and illnesses. Our number-one priority is the health and safety of those in our members’ care and their staff," she added.