March 10, 2020

Van Hollen, Warren, Colleagues Question Bureau of Prisons and Private Prison Contractors About Plans to Prepare for and Manage Coronavirus at Federal Prisons

United States Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.), in sending letters to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the three largest private prison operators GEO Group (GEO), CoreCivic, and Management and Training Corporation (MTC) asking about the policies and procedures that they have in place to prepare for and manage a potential spread of the novel coronavirus in federal prisons.

Over 175,000 individuals are incarcerated in federal prisons and jails, with over 17,500 of those in the custody of private prison contractors, such as GEO, CoreCivic, and MTC. Thousands of incarcerated people, their family and friends, and correctional staff move in and out of federal prisons every day. According to public health experts, incarcerated individuals "are at special risk of infection," and "may also be less able to participate in proactive measures to keep themselves safe." As a result, the uncontained spread of coronavirus in federal prisons and jails endangers the federal prison population, correctional staff, and the general public.

"Given the spread of the virus in the U.S. and the particular vulnerability of the prison population and correctional staff it is critical that (you) have a plan to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus to incarcerated individuals and correctional staff, along with their families and loved ones, and provide treatment to incarcerated individuals and staff who become infected," the senators wrote.

The senators have requested responses to their letters no later than March 16, 2020.

The full text of the letter to BOP is available here.

The full text of the letter to GEO Group is available here.

The full text of the letter to CoreCivic is here.

The full text of the letter to MTC is here.