April 30, 2020

Harris, Feinstein to Bureau of Prisons: Stop Spread of Coronavirus at Terminal Island

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Thursday called on Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal to explain what is being done to stop the spread of COVID-19 at the Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution.

The facility now has the highest COVID-19 infection rate of any federal prison in the country after at least 570 inmates – more than half the prison’s population of 1,055 – tested positive for the virus.

“The dramatic increase in cases at Terminal Island is particularly concerning given the difficulty of containing the virus at this facility,” the senators wrote. “Specifically, the medically vulnerable inmate population and the open dormitory-style housing make containment even more challenging. The 1,055 inmates currently housed in Terminal Island and Bureau staff at the facility are undoubtedly fearful for their health and safety during this outbreak.”

Full text of the letter is here and below.

April 30, 2020

Mr. Michael Carvajal

Director

Federal Bureau of Prisons

320 First St., NW

Washington, DC 20534

 

Dear Mr. Carvajal,

According to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the number of positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff at the Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution has increased exponentially over the last week. We write to express our concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus at Terminal Island, and to ask what steps BOP is taking to stop this dramatic rise.

As of the date of this letter, Terminal Island is outpacing every other BOP facility in terms of COVID-19 infections. At least 570 inmates—over half of the total inmate population at Terminal Island—have tested positive for the virus, along with ten staff members. Two inmates have died.

The dramatic increase in cases at Terminal Island is particularly concerning given the difficulty of containing the virus at this facility. Specifically, the medically vulnerable inmate population and the open dormitory-style housing make containment even more challenging. The 1,055 inmates currently housed in Terminal Island and Bureau staff at the facility are undoubtedly fearful for their health and safety during this outbreak.

Based on these concerns, please explain how BOP is taking steps to stop the continued spread of COVID-19 at Terminal Island. In particular, please explain how BOP is coordinating with local Los Angeles County Public Health officials to identify and contain further spread of the virus among Terminal Island inmates and staff. Please further describe any direct assistance that BOP is receiving from the U.S. Department of Justice to manage the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lastly, please identify any steps that Congress can take to help the Bureau manage this public health challenge.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

###