Justice Department watchdog to inspect federal prisons' handling of novel coronavirus outbreaks
By Sarah N.
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department's inspector general said on Wednesday his office had launched "remote inspections" to review whether the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was complying with guidelines to prevent, manage and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus inside the prison system.
The announcement on the inspector general's website comes after repeated complaints by federal prison staff and inmates over unsanitary conditions inside many facilities, the lack of social distancing, and problems getting access to protective equipment such as masks.
Since March 28, 14 inmates so far at prison complexes in Louisiana, Ohio and North Carolina have died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
As of April 14, the BOP said at least 446 federal inmates and 248 BOP staff have tested positive for the illness.
A BOP spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment on the upcoming inspections by the Justice Department's inspector general.
Since April 1, the BOP has been on a lockdown across its 122 facilities, a move which has largely restricted the system’s 175,000 inmates to their cells and dormitories.
However, staffers from several federal prisons have told Reuters in multiple interviews that movement of some inmates has continued, raising concerns infected prisoners could be placed in facilities that have not yet faced an outbreak of the new coronavirus.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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