DOJ watchdog to inspect federal prisons after hundreds diagnosed with coronavirus

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The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General will remotely inspect federal Bureau of Prisons facilities to ensure that they are taking proper precautions against the spread of the coronavirus amid numerous reports of prisons and jails becoming hotspots for the virus.

A Justice Department official told The Associated Press that Attorney General William Barr has deployed several advisers to federal prisons identified as viral hotspots, including FCC Oakdale in Louisiana, which has been the site of six deaths, Ohio’s FCI Elkton, where five have died, and North Carolina’s FCC Butner, where four have died.

A total of 451 federal inmates and 280 Bureau of Prisons workers have tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday evening, with 17 inmate deaths at federal prisons since late March.

Barr asked Inspector General Michael Horowitz to conduct an assessment of the federal prisons that were becoming hot spots and analyze how the department can improve best practices, a person familiar with the matter told the AP, and Barr has continued to consult with Horowitz on the matter in the meantime.

The remote inspections will include Bureau of Prisons facilities, halfway houses and prisons with contracts to house federal inmates, all of which will be reviewed for compliance with government guidelines.

“The Bureau of Prisons is working hard to prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread of this global pandemic in its correctional settings, and we look forward to the OIG’s assessment of these efforts,” Bureau of Prisons spokesman Justin Long said in a statement.

Local jails have also seen widespread cases of the virus, with almost 300 inmates at Chicago’s Cook County Jail testing positive, as well as 115 staffers.

“First and foremost, no one should be locked up if they’re not a danger to the community or a flight risk,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said on CNN’s “New Day” last week. “And certainly not because they can’t afford to pay bail.” 

Tags Coronavirus Federal Bureau of Prisons Federal prison William Barr

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