Federal prisons are officially under lockdown. In an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, 146,000 federal inmates in 122 facilities will be confined to their cells for the next two weeks beginning Wednesday, per Politico and USA Today. "Limited group gathering will be afforded to the extent practical to facilitate commissary, laundry, showers, telephone, and [computer] access," reads a Tuesday statement from the Bureau of Prisons, which notes the lockdown could be extended. "During this time, to the extent practicable, inmates should still have access to programs and services that are offered under normal operating procedures, such as mental health treatment and education." Incoming movement will also be restricted.
As of March 26, newly admitted inmates have undergone temperature checks, with the asymptomatic quarantined for 14 days and the symptomatic isolated until they recover or are otherwise cleared per CDC guidelines, the agency says. Some 30 inmates and just as many staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, per a federal prison system report, and one Louisiana inmate with preexisting medical conditions has died. But union groups believe those numbers to be higher. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York and California Rep. Karen Bass, both Democrats, have requested that "medically compromised, elderly, and pregnant prisoners" be released. Attorney General William Barr is said to be weighing the idea of home confinement. (Read more lockdown stories.)