Federal prison inmates across the country will be confined to their cells or quarters for two weeks from Wednesday in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the CCP virus pandemic, according to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
The BOP said the decision to confine inmates to their cells was based on health concerns and not on disruptive behavior. It added that inmates, "to the extent practicable," would still have access to programs and services that are usually offered under normal operations, such as mental health treatment. Meanwhile, limited group gatherings will also be available "to the extent practicable" to provide prisoners access to commissaries, laundry, showers, and telephones.
The agency added that it will coordinate with the United States Marshals Service to "significantly decrease" incoming movement.
Last week, the BOP said it had instituted "significant measures" to prevent the virus from spreading in its facilities, including screening all newly admitted inmates and checking their temperature. Meanwhile, asymptomatic inmates are being placed in quarantine for a minimum of 14 days or until cleared by medical staff. Those who are showing symptoms are placed in isolation until they recover or are cleared by medical staff based on CDC guidelines.
Public health experts and epidemiologists have also raised concerns about the potential spread of the CCP virus inside prisons. Chris Beyrer, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, previously told The Epoch Times that the risks of people contracting respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 are higher in prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers.
Beyrer said implementing social distancing in those facilities is difficult and access to hand sanitizers and other hygiene products is often limited.
The lawmakers called on Barr to "immediately move to release medically-compromised, elderly, and pregnant prisoners in the custody of the BOP."
He said this includes assessing on a case-by-case basis whether an individual will be safer outside than inside prison. Moreover, he added that if anyone is to be released for home confinement, the individual would need to be quarantined for 14 days prior to leaving to ensure that the prisons are not putting people in the community at risk.
Barr said among the 10,000 inmates that are aged 60 and over, 40 percent of them are serving sentences for violent crimes or sex offenses.