Federal Bureau of Prisons locks down all facilities before inauguration
Every American has seen with horror the tragic events of the hostile actions on Capitol Hill on January 6. Now the country is on the alert as further protests are likely to occur across the country. There is more than 22,000 soldiers of the National Guard in Washington DC both as a deterrent and as a protection against acts of violence that could disrupt the nomination of Joe Biden.
The tensions we all feel are magnified in our federal prisons. Federal inmates have been in a state of strict containment since the Federal Bureau of Prisons changed its operations in March 2020. Since then, most visits have been canceled, intermediate blocks put in place to reduce the contagion of COVID-19 and many programs / activities for inmates have been suspended. Things are about to get even more restrictive.
the BOP issued a statement early today (January 16, 2021) announcing that a nationwide lockdown is in place until further notice:
“… in light of the current events happening in the country, and out of prudence, the decision was taken to secure all the institutions. This action is taken to maintain the safety and proper functioning of our facilities, as well as to ensure the continued safety of staff, inmates and the public.
In securing the facilities, the hope is that this prudent measure will be for a short time and that operations will be restored to their previous state as soon as possible. We will continue to closely monitor events and adjust operations accordingly as the situation continues to evolve. Recognizing that communication with families is important, although it will be limited, inmates will have access to phones and emails.
I talked to Jack Donson who worked as a Correctional Treatment Specialist at BOP before retiring in 2011 who told me that many inmates are under mental stress as a result of their life in a correctional environment, but blockages add to that stress. Donson told me: “The BOP is recorded on the importance family visit is for the fit as well as the sanity of a person. In its directive, the BOP acknowledged that communication with families is important but that phone and email access will be limited during the lockdown.
Even before COVID-19 and this nationwide lockdown, BOP staff were under pressure due to staff shortages. the The Office of Inspector General released a report on BOP overtime in fiscal 2019, indicating that more than $ 300 million was spent on overtime for workers. One of the conclusions of this report was as follows;
“A safe and secure correctional environment requires minimum staffing, which means the BOP has limited flexibility with respect to staffing levels and assignments. Therefore, a staff shortage in a BOP facility presents a significant challenge. The BOP uses staff overtime as a mechanism to supplement staff ”
Overtime can only be expected to increase due to COVID-19, where absent workers are supplemented by those working overtime to cover them. Donson added, “The closures are impacting prisons more than you might think. Aside from termination of visits, prolonged isolation, and disruption of programs, this puts a strain on staff and inmates, especially those in minimum-security camps who must perform work in adjacent higher-security facilities.
The BOP has not given a date on which the lockdown will end, but that most certainly depends on events associated with what is supposed to be a peaceful transition of power. For those who will be heading to the jail in the next few days, plan to show up as the BOP has to make further surrenders. I’m sure they’ll find some space for detention. According to people I’ve spoken to, those who are supposed to show up in jail may want to ask for an extension … between COVID protocols and this latest lockdown, conditions are not the best inside the BOP .
The last nationwide lockdown of BOP facilities linked to national security events came when protests erupted in June 2020 over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.