WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today is calling ON the Justice Department and Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to provide public guidance on efforts to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus in its facilities.
In a letter today to Attorney General William Barr and BOP Director Michael Carvajal, Grassley called on the agencies to post COVID-19 case data and prevention guidance online as well as at facilities for those visiting inmates.
“At this critical junction, it is essential that BOP, the Justice Department, and other branches of the Department of Corrections, band together to highlight their procedures if there is an outbreak, and what steps are actively being taken to mitigate this,” Grassley wrote.
March 13, 2020
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable William P. Barr
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Mr. Michael Carvajal
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20534
Dear Attorney General Barr and Director Carvajal:
I write to you today about the ongoing crisis from the spread of COVID-19. Each day brings new updates on the impact of this virus. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a number of measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding close contact, particularly with those exhibiting symptoms. These preventative measures are essential for all populations, but I write to you today to highlight the necessity for diligence, accountability, and prevention as it pertains to the spread of this disease among the inmate population.
The Bureau of Prisons incarcerates thousands of individuals, many of which receive visitors. Given the nature of transmission of COVID-19, the spread of the virus could impact inmates in BOP custody. At this critical junction, it is essential that BOP, the Justice Department, and other branches of the Department of Corrections, band together to highlight their procedures if there is an outbreak, and what steps are actively being taken to mitigate this.
To that end, I urge BOP and the Department of Corrections to do the following:
Make available online for the public the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and in which BOP or Department of Corrections facilities these cases have been found;
Publicly post the proactive measures that BOP is considering or currently doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and
Provide clear information for all visitors to BOP facilities on measures to be taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Transparency and accountability is preeminent at this time. As of March 13, 2020, no information on COVID-19 is available on the BOP’s home webpage. Incarcerated individuals and their families, as well as the public, require your assistance and diligence in containing the virus and mitigating risk.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. For any further questions, please contact Rachel Wright of my staff at Rachel_wright@judiciary-rep.senate.gov.
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator