June 18, 2020

Federal Bureau of Prisons Tells Lawmakers It Has Implemented Widespread COVID-19 Testing for Incarcerated Individuals at Federal Medical Center Devens

Says "ase management staff are urgently reviewing all inmates to determine which ones meet the criteria [for home confinement] established by the Attorney General"

Letter from BOP (PDF) | Lawmakers' Initial Request (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-04), are pleased that the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) decided  to implement widespread COVID-19 testing of all incarcerated individuals at Federal Medical Center Devens (FMC Devens). 

"The BOP's decision to implement widespread testing for incarcerated individuals is a good step toward mitigating and preventing future outbreaks at FMC Devens," the lawmakers said in a statement. "Although we are glad to see the efforts underway to stop the spread of COVID-19 at FMC Devens, we encourage the BOP to continue to review and release vulnerable individuals who do not pose specific and substantial risks to public safety to home confinement.  And we will continue to monitor this situation to be sure that incarcerated individuals and staff have access to necessary personal protective equipment and ongoing testing." 

Last month, the lawmakers requested that the BOP immediately implement widespread COVID-19 testing of all incarcerated individuals and staff at FMC Devens, and swiftly release vulnerable individuals who do not pose specific and substantial risks to public safety to home confinement. The letter followed reports of the death of one incarcerated individual and confirmed cases of COVID-19 among incarcerated individuals and staff at FMC Devens. 

In their response, the BOP stated that, as of June 17, 100 percent of inmates at the facility have been tested. Of those, 53 inmates tested positive and only eight were symptomatic.  All inmates that tested positive were moved to an isolation area for treatment and monitoring.  BOP also indicated that, although the agency could not require staff testing, it had encouraged Wardens to identify locations in the community where staff could be tested.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Senator Warren has unveiled detailed plans to increase diagnostic testing nationwide. She has consistently sounded the alarm about the Trump Administration's failure to deliver federal support for testing and care in Massachusetts. As the scope of the pandemic grew in March 2020, Senator Warren led 14 of her Senate colleagues in writing to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the three largest private prison operators asking about the policies and procedures that they have in place to prepare for and manage the potential spread of the novel coronavirus in federal prisons. Later that month, Senator Warren and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) sent a letter to President Trump calling on him to adopt and release decarceral guidelines to reduce the population of people in federal custody in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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