McEachin Fights for Health and Safety of Prison Staff, Inmates During Pandemic

May 21, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today led a letter to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) expressing concern for the health and safety of staff and inmates at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Petersburg and United States Penitentiary (USP) Lee.

Co-signed by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Congressman Morgan Griffith (VA-09), the letter is the result of conversations with concerned employees about their workplaces’ health and safety conditions. These concerns include a lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for both staff and inmates, continued inmate transfers between facilities, often irrespective of the facility’s COVID-19 infection rates, and additional reports that FCI Petersburg staff are no longer receiving a lunch break despite working shifts as long as 16 hours.

“One area of particular concern is the apparent lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for correctional staff and inmates at FCI Petersburg Low. According to employees at the facility, both correctional staff and inmates are only being given new PPE once or twice a week, which presents serious health and safety risks,” said the lawmakers in the letter. “We recognize that PPE shortages are a national crisis impacting every sector of our economy. However, given the nature of a correctional facility, including close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated people alike are particularly susceptible to contracting COVID-19.”

The letter urges the Bureau of Prisons to maximize use of the $100 million included by Congress in the recently-passed CARES Act to purchase PPE and other medical equipment and to institute a break policy—not only at the Petersburg facility, but at BOP facilities across the nation and to immediately cease inmate transfers from facilities with COVID-19 cases to facilities without COVID-19 cases.

“Further, we are concerned to hear from employees at USP Lee that BOP is continuing to transfer inmates between correctional facilities. In the midst of a pandemic, this is deeply concerning to us,” the lawmakers continued. “Our concern is compounded by reports we have received that these transfers are happening between facilities with vastly different COVID-19 infection rates and between states with varying degrees of containment and mitigation efforts. At a minimum, we urge you to immediately cease transfers from facilities with COVID-19 cases to facilities without COVID-19 cases. While exigencies will arise, it may also be prudent to consider ceasing transfers altogether until the present health crisis has abated.

Link to Full Letter 

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For more information, please contact:

Ralph M. Jones, Jr., Communications Director
U.S. Representative A. Donald McEachin (VA-04)
C: 202.802.1721
ralph.jones@mail.house.gov