Federal prisons to isolate inmates for 2 weeks amid coronavirus crisis
All federal inmates across the country will be isolated in their cells for two weeks in an effort to fight the spread of coronavirus, federal prison officials announced.
The move, set to take effect Wednesday, is based solely on health concerns and will keep roughly 146,000 inmates confined across 122 facilities nationwide, the Bureau of Prisons said Tuesday.
“During this time, to the extent practicable, inmates should still have access to programs and services that are offered under normal operating procedures, such as mental health treatment and education,” prison officials said in a statement.
Access to facilities like prison commissaries, laundry machines, showers and telephones will also be “afforded to the extent practical,” according to the new policy, which will be reevaluated after 14 days.
The move comes after a 47-year-old inmate died Saturday at a federal lockup in Louisiana, where at least five prisoners have tested positive for the virus, NBC News reports.
The death of Patrick Jones, who was facing drug charges at a minimum-security prison in Oakdale, was the first COVID-19-related fatality in the federal system, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said.
“The situation is just going to get worse and worse as time goes on,” said Ronald Morris, a maintenance supervisor at the prison who also heads a union local that represents workers at the prison.
At least 28 inmates and 24 agency employees have tested positive for COVID-19 as of early Tuesday, prison officials told the Wall Street Journal.
Union officials, however, expect those figures to surge in coming days and weeks, the newspaper reports.
Bureau of Prisons officials have previously said they put “aggressive” measures in place on March 13 to stem the spread of the virus, including temporary restrictions on visitation and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all new inmates.
The move marks the first time the federal prison system has been on total lockdown since a series of riots in 1995.
But BOP officials noted the COVID-19 restrictions are not punitive and inmates will still have access to mental health treatment and other programs, according to the Wall Street Journal.
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