May 15, 2020

Massachusetts Lawmakers Urge Federal Bureau of Prisons to Implement Widespread COVID-19 Testing at Federal Medical Center Devens

Text of Letter (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), wrote to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) urging them to immediately implement widespread COVID-19 testing of all incarcerated individuals and staff at Federal Medical Center Devens (FMC Devens) and release to home confinement vulnerable individuals who do not pose specific and substantial safety threats. 

The letter comes after the lawmakers received correspondence from individuals incarcerated at FMC Devens, a federal prison facility for incarcerated individuals needing specialized or long-term medical care, in Ayer, Massachusetts, and their advocates and loved ones who are concerned that the facility is failing to move quickly and appropriately to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

"Already, one incarcerated individual has died and at least ten incarcerated individuals and two employees at FMC Devens have tested positive for COVID-19, and those numbers may dramatically underrepresent the true toll of the disease if BOP has not tested all individuals and staff at FMC Devens," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to BOP.

"We urge you to act without delay to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at FMC Devens and save lives by mandating that all incarcerated individuals and staff be tested for COVID-19, and implementing a plan to repeat testing on a regular basis," the lawmakers wrote. "In addition, we request that you release to home confinement individuals incarcerated at FMC Devens who are medically vulnerable and do not pose specific and substantial safety risks."

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.