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Federal Prisons on Lockdown For Second Time in US History Amid George Floyd Protests

Heavy.com, June 2, 2020. https://heavy.com/news/2020/06/federal-prisons-...

By Amy Beeman

he Federal Bureau of Prisons announced Monday that they are putting all 165,575 of their inmates on full lockdown for the first time in twenty-five years. Their reasons — civil unrest and the ongoing protests around the nation that were sparked when a white police officer killed a black man in Minneapolis on May 25 during an arrest.

This is only the second time all federal prisons have been on full lockdown in the history of the U.S., according to Prison Legal News, a department of the Human Rights Defense Center.

The BOP says they’re taking the action out of “an abundance of caution” as protests around the nation continue to rage, with various groups seeking to be involved in the protests for different reasons — some calling for justice for the black community after years of excessive force at the hands of police, others using the protests to cause destruction, to loot and to do violence.

USA Today reported the BOP’s statement. They said:

In light of extensive protest activity occurring around the country, the BOP – in an abundance of caution – is implementing an additional, temporary security measure to ensure the good order and security of our institutions, as well as ensure the safety of staff and inmates securing our facilities, our hope is that this security measure is short-lived and that inmates will be restored to limited movement in the very near future.

Heavy has reached out to the BOP for more information and is awaiting a reply.

According to the BOP, “There are 1650 federal inmates and 171 BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide. Currently, 3613 inmates and 445 staff have recovered. There have been 68 federal inmate deaths and 0 BOP staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease.”

On May 29 the agency tweeted that they had more recovered cases of COVID-19 than were currently infected.

The decrease in sick inmates and staff was likely to do with the modified lockdown that was implemented months ago. Inmates lost visitation privileges, had 30-day suspensions on being able to meet with their attorney’s, and have had restricted movement within the facilities in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, the BOP reported.

Joe Rojas, the Southeast regional vice president at the Council of Prison Locals, told news outlet The Government Executive that the new orders for a total lockdown mean “no movement whatsoever.”

 

In October of 1995 the BOP issued a national lockdown on inmates due to an internal revolt within the prison system. According to Prison Legal News:

Widespread rebellion ignited by injustices in the imposition and execution of prison sentences was unprecedented in the history of the BOP (Bureau of Prisons). Though its participants caused no deaths, took no hostages, and breached no secure perimeter, their exclamation of discontent resulted in the first nationwide lockdown of federal penitentiaries and correctional institutions and cost $39.7 million.

More recently, riots, fires, and upheaval at prisons around the country have been reported amid the coronavirus outbreak. While information is limited as to what sparked the revolts it’s been reported that inmates were acting out because they did not feel they were being protected from the potentially deadly coronavirus behind bars.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of inmates have been released early from jails and prisons in an effort to decrease the number of people in close quarters and not put people at risk unnecessarily.

This story will be updated when the BOP replies to Heavy’s request for more information.

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