WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Prisons will begin moving about 6,800 recently sentenced federal inmates to its facilities, one of the first steps toward easing movements of prisoners across the federal prison system.
The Bureau of Prisons has been housing newly sentenced prisoners in local detention centers across the country, as coronavirus cases in the federal prison system mount.
“As the federal judiciary has continued to process new criminal cases … the Bureau must, on a limited basis, move these inmates to alleviate population pressures in these local detention centers and allow inmates to begin serving their sentences,” the Bureau of Prisons said Friday.
Officials said prisoners will first be taken to quarantine sites and temporary detention centers, where they will be processed and tested for coronavirus. Inmates will be tested again before they’re moved to their assigned prisons.
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In March, officials ordered a system-wide lockdown across the agency’s 122 facilities in an attempt to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The lockdown came just days after the nation’s largest prison system reported its first virus-related death in Louisiana.
Officials said Friday that another 7,000 prisoners already housed in Bureau of Prisons facilities still need to be moved to their designated prisons. Those transfers will start at a later date, officials said.
Fifty-nine federal prisoners, including a woman who gave birth while on a respirator, have died of coronavirus.
As of Friday, nearly 1,600 inmates and close to 200 prison staffers have tested positive for coronavirus. Another 3,000 prisoners and nearly 400 staffers who tested positive have recovered. Officials said they expanded coronavirus testing to seek out asymptomatic inmates
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Attorney General William Barr has ordered federal prison officials to expedite the release of vulnerable prisoners to home confinement as infections and fatalities mounted. Barr asked Bureau of Prison officials to grant home confinement based on factors including a prisoner’s age and vulnerability to COVID-19, their conduct in prison, and the crimes for which they were convicted. Those convicted of violent crimes and sex offenses will not be considered for early release.
In a court filing last month, an official said the Bureau of Prisons is prioritizing inmates who have served 50% of their punishment. Officials are also prioritizing inmates with short prison sentences – those who have 18 months or less left and have served 25% of their time.
As of Friday, the Bureau of Prisons has placed 3,179 inmates in home confinement.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson