Office Of Inspector General Critical Of Bureau of Prisons In Extensive Reports
It will take years of results from Freedom of Information requests and litigation to discover the depths of the failures with the federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General has released multiple reports on the BOP’s reaction to COVID-19 and those reviews have been quite critical of the agency.
In April 2020, OIG determined that one of the most significant challenges the BOP faced was protecting the safety and welfare of BOP inmates, staff and the communities in which they serve. As of May 31, 2021, over 45,000 federal inmates had been infected and 6,800 staff … most have recovered. There have been 237 inmates deaths and 4 staff attributable to COVID-19.
The OIG initiated a series of remote inspections of facilities housing BOP inmates to both assess their compliance with the available guidance and assist the BOP in mitigating the health risks arising from the pandemic. One of the most cited weaknesses by OIG has been in the area of staffing, particularly in the availability of medical staff.
Below are some of the findings from those reports (hyperlinked if you want to review the entire report. Here are some of the excerpts worth noting:
FCC Coleman – At a time when an adequate number of medical staff was crucial for controlling the transmission of COVID-19 in correctional settings, FCC Coleman operated with only 80% of its authorized medical staff at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FCC Lompoc – “Preexisting shortages of medical staff members resulted in challenges for screening inmates and staff members for COVID-19 symptoms; and preexisting shortages of correctional staff members resulted in Lompoc officials delaying for 15 days the full implementation of staff movement restrictions required by BOP for institutions with active COVID-19 cases.”
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FCC Tucson – Unlike other BOP institutions, FCC Tucson was not experiencing a staffing shortage. Having sufficient staff allowed it to more easily separate its rosters (of inmates] and assign staff to a single institution, thereby limiting possible staff cross -contamination.
FCC Butner – Butner did not quarantine inmates who tested negative for COVID-19, but who, after testing, were likely exposed to known COVID-19 positive inmates, which was inconsistent with BOP and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. [It should be noted that Butner is one of the BOP’s federal medical centers.]
FCC Oakdale – “Numerous staff absences during the COVID‑19 outbreak at FCC Oakdale resulted in some staff being mandated to work 16-hour shifts, and in some instances, staff volunteered to work as much as 40 hours straight.”
FMC Ft. Worth – Due to the intensity of the outbreak at FMC Ft. Worth, the number of inmates receiving care at local hospitals was at times double that of normal operations. This required FMC Ft. Worth to reassign Correctional Officers to the local hospitals, which strained staff resources at the FMC.
FCI Terminal Island – In April 2020, the institution tested its entire inmate population for COVID-19; but by the time testing was completed, nearly half of the inmate population was already infected.
FCI Milan – “The depletion of medical staff was the most significant and dangerous challenge to FCI Milan’s COVID‑19 response. By early May 2020, 75 percent of Milan’s medical staff had contracted COVID‑19, creating serious staffing shortages in Milan’s Health Services Department. Additionally, staffing shortages generally due to the COVID‑19 outbreak were a consistent challenge for Milan and made it difficult for the institution to restrict staff movement within the institution to prevent the spread of the virus.”