In light of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of the police, Klobuchar detailed how the longstanding need for change in the justice system cannot be separated from injustices we have witnessed during the pandemic
For weeks, Klobuchar has called on Bureau of Prisons Director to commit to releasing information on home confinement transfers; today, she renewed longstanding request for demographic data on incarcerated people and staff impacted by coronavirus
WASHINGTON – Today, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) addressed injustices in policing and the criminal justice system in light of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of the police. She detailed how the longstanding need for change in the justice system cannot be separated from injustices we have witnessed during the pandemic, including the protection of people in federal custody from the coronavirus.
In her questioning, she specifically demanded the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) commit to releasing information on how the BOP is reviewing eligibility for home confinement during the coronavirus pandemic.
On April 28, a federal inmate named Andrea Circle Bear passed away in custody just weeks after giving birth on a ventilator and four weeks after having tested positive for the coronavirus. She was serving a 26-month sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. On May 13, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was transferred to home confinement. He was serving an 84-month sentence at a facility that had no confirmed COVID-19 cases. On May 21, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was also transferred to home confinement.
At the hearing, Klobuchar also renewed her request for system-wide demographic data on the number of incarcerated people and staff impacted by the coronavirus, and said that she will submit written questions for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
“We have seen people across the country mobilize and demand systemic change including to the prison system, which we’re talking about today. But we've seen this cry for change in every city in the country in the last few days. As you all know, this came out of a horrendous murder case in my state where George Floyd was murdered at the hands of police. That case is now being prosecuted, the murder case by our attorney general, Keith Ellison, and I've called beyond that and I know some of my colleagues have joined me, I appreciate that, for a systemic review of the Minneapolis Police Department from top to bottom. And a full scale review called pattern and practice by the Justice Department. But as you and I discussed this weekend, Mr. Chairman, it goes beyond that. I appreciate that we're going to have a hearing on this. But I think we all know that we all talk about this, but what matters is action,” Klobuchar said at the hearing.
“And there's so much we can do when it comes to changes in police practices, public data, police accountability, as well as criminal justice reform.
“The other place which is the subject of this hearing that we've seen this kind of disparity day in and day out is in our prison system and this is everything from during the pandemic to before. And my concern is that the pandemic can't be divorced by this, from this, but put a big spotlight on what happens every single day to defendants and in this case we know that we've seen a number of white collar defendants, including Paul Manafort released because of fear that they might get coronavirus, and then we see other cases of people that are in there for low level drug offenses where they haven't been released and that's why I'm asking Director Carvajal, I know we did in this a letter, but really haven't gotten an answer for you to release comprehensive data, demographic data, on who has been not just impacted but who has been released, and their race, their charges, those kinds of things so that we are able. Our role in Congress is oversight and I need that information. So tell me if we can get that information.”
Watch video of Klobuchar’s remarks HERE.
Following the killing of George Floyd, Klobuchar joined Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and 26 of their colleagues in calling on the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ to conduct an investigation into the patterns and practices of racially discriminatory and violent policing in the Minneapolis Police Department.
In April, Klobuchar and Senator Durbin (D-IL) led a group of 14 colleagues in a letter to Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal urging him to release system-wide demographic data in the BOP’s public reporting of the number of incarcerated people and staff impacted by COVID-19. Preliminary data collected from the general public has shown that the COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting certain populations, including racial and ethnic minorities.
The letter followed Klobuchar and Durbin’s calls on the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to waive phone charges for incarcerated people during the pandemic. After their request, BOP announced that these charges would be waived.
Also in May, Klobuchar wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr urging the Administration to address the rapid outbreak of COVID-19 at state prisons and jails.
In May, Klobuchar and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), led 27 senators and 52 representatives in a letter to DHS and ICE, urging the administration to ensure access to free telephone calls for detainees at ICE detention centers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The letter also calls on DHS to guarantee that any telephonic or remote communication with attorneys are confidential and unsupervised by detention center staff.