J. Edward Moreno
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) is asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to address coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. prisons.
“Reports suggest that many states and the federal prison system have struggled to protect incarcerated people from the virus. The Administration must take immediate action to assist prison systems in responding to the virus,” the former Democratic presidential candidate wrote in a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr.
In the letter she cites The Marshall Project, which reports that as of April 29, at least 14,513 people in state and federal prisons have tested positive for COVID-19, which represents a 50 percent increase from the week before. Additionally, 218 state and federal prisoners died that week, a 66 percent increase from the week before.
“The Coronavirus Task Force, which was created to ‘monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus,’ did not include any representative from the Department of Justice despite the high risk to incarcerated people due to the conditions of close confinement,” Klobuchar wrote.
“Since that time, we have seen a rapid spread of the virus in state and federal correctional facilities. As testing has slowly begun to increase, states are now learning the extent to which the conditions of close confinement in state facilities has contributed to the spread of COVID-19,” she added.
Earlier this year Kloubuchar joined over a dozen of her Democratic colleagues in asking the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the three biggest private prison operators in the U.S. what contingency plans they have in place to address the impact from the coronavirus.
The BOP responded in part by waiving phone charges for incarcerated people during the pandemic.