Federal prisons: USA to free some prisoners amid coronavirus threat

Elias Hubbard
March 28, 2020

He added that any inmate released on home confinement will still face a 14-day quarantine before they leave prison.

The Attorney General issued a memorandum today to the Federal Bureau of Prisons officials.

The announcement comes after calls from criminal justice advocacy groups to reduce prison populations nationwide in order to avoid what could be a disastrous and unsafe spread of the virus. "As of last night, there were four staff members who had been tested and tested positive".

The criteria for such releases in many ways mirrors what is in place inside the First Step Act.

The directive will favor prisoners over 60 years old who have not been convicted of violent or sexual crimes.

But on Monday, Trump had retweeted a conservative commentator who was fooling the idea and killing the hopes of some advocates.

After Barr announced the memo and the new policy at a press conference on Thursday, activists involved in the effort cheered.

"I don't think it's enough", Ring said.

"Inside the prisons, this would not only allow them to start engaging in better social distancing methods because they will be a little less crowded but it will also take a lot of pressure from the prison hospitals and the prison medical workers who otherwise can climb to take care of this population if the corona virus gets in there, "she said".

Hundreds of prisoners have already started to be released from locally run prisons after state and municipal authorities took swift action.

So far, there have been few coronavirus cases reported in federal prisons. New Jersey's Supreme Court ordered the release of some county jail inmates on Tuesday, after a petition filed by New Jersey's public defender's office. The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said it estimates it can be up to 1,000 people.

Inmates at some of the most heavily populated prisons in the country - including Rikers Island in NY and California State Prison in California - tested positive for COVID-19 and the risk of spread throughout prison facilities is troublesome because of the close proximity of prisoners to each other and BOP staff.

Gabriella Agranat-Getz, a lawyer for the group, described New York's response as "dangerously slow".

In response to some local and state prisons across the USA who have opted to release inmates in prisons and jails in large numbers, Barr said he was concerned about those using the coronavirus simply as a vehicle to de-populate prisons around the U.S.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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