NEW YORK – All federal prisons in the United States have been closed and officials wanted to quell any possible violence that might occur behind bars as law enforcement prepare for President-elect Joe’s lead up to potentially violent protests across the country Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
The lockdown of more than 120 federal prison facilities went into effect on Saturday at 12 noon, according to an email sent to employees of the union president who represents federal correctional officers.
“Given current events across the country and out of caution, the decision was made to secure all institutions,” the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.
The lockdown decision is precautionary, no specific information has been released, and it does not respond to material events within facilities, the office said.
To avoid setbacks from inmates, the lockdown was not announced until after they were locked in their cells on Friday evening.
Shane Fausey, the president of the Council of Prison Locals, wrote in his email to staff that inmates should continue to have small group access to showers, phones, and emails, and continue to do food preparation and basic maintenance can be involved.
Messages seeking comment were left on Fausey on Saturday.
The agency last rolled out a nationwide lockdown in April to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
During a lockdown, inmates remain in their cells for most of the day and the visit is canceled. Due to the coronavirus, social visits did not resume until October, but many facilities canceled them again as infections increased.
Part of the reason for the new statewide lockdown is because the office moved some of its Special Operations Response teams from prison facilities to Washington, DC for added security after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 Be more violence, not just in the nation’s capital, but also in state capitals before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons said the agency is coordinating with Justice Department officials to be operational when needed. Earlier this month, about 100 officers were dispatched to the Justice Department headquarters to supplement security personnel. They were represented by the US Marshal Service and were given special legal powers to “enforce federal criminal law and protect federal property and personnel,” said spokesman Justin Lange.
The special forces usually respond to civil unrest and other emergencies in prisons, such as civil unrest, assaults, escape attempts and hostage situations. Their absence can leave gaps in a prison’s emergency response and endanger remaining staff.
“The things that happen outside the walls could affect those who work behind the walls,” said Aaron McGlothin, a local union president at a California federal prison.
As the pandemic continues to threaten inmates and federal workers, a federal prison in Mendota, California is also dealing with a possible case of tuberculosis.
According to an email to staff on Friday, a medium-security facility inmate was taken to a negative pressure room after returning a positive skin test and an X-ray that indicated an active case of tuberculosis.
The inmate showed no symptoms of the lung disease and is undergoing further tests to confirm a diagnosis, the email said.
As a precaution, all other occupants of the affected occupant unit were placed in quarantine status and subjected to skin tests for tuberculosis.
Similar to COVID-19, the bacterial disease spreads through droplets that an infected person emits through coughing, sneezing, or other activities such as singing and speaking.
Mendota also has 10 current inmate cases and six current employee cases from COVID-19.
As of Wednesday, the last day for which data was available, there were 4,718 federal inmates and 2,049 Bureau of Prisons staff with recent positive tests for COVID-19.
Since the first case was reported in March, 38,535 inmates and 3,553 employees have recovered from the virus. So far 190 federal inmates and 3 employees have died.
Balsamo reported from Washington.
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