As reported by various news outlets to include CNN.com, the first cases of coronavirus in the federal correctional system emerged earlier this week as the number of infected inmates and staff at facilities across the country continued to climb. This, in turn, has heightened concerns about the spread of the pandemic within the institutions housing the nation’s inmates amongst the inmates and correctional staff.
Certain developments have arisen as many staff at prisons have voiced worries about an unprepared system, with officials citing short staffing and a lack of proper protective equipment. Criminal justice advocates have also called for the release of certain nonviolent offenders, including those who may be at greater risk from the virus. Certain high-profile inmates have actually asked to be released.
In response, the Federal Bureau of Prisons moved to a defensive posture, temporarily blocking social visitors as well as attorneys in some circumstances from visiting inmates at the system’s 122 facilities across the country. Local facilities, where most the U.S.’s prison population is housed, have also taken steps to lock down buildings and reduce the possibility of the virus making it inside. As you can expect, this is extremely challenging given cramped cell blocks and routine gatherings among inmate populations. As such, measures such as staggering mealtimes and recreation in certain areas has been implemented. Moreover, while new inmates have continued to report to federal prisons throughout the crisis, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has suspended internal inmate transfers between facilities to minimize the spread of possible infections.
The issues encountered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons will surely arise, if they have not already, in New Jersey, both on the State and local level. As such, we want all of our Public Safety Officers to be prepared and take the necessary precautions for not only themselves, but their families and loved ones. As you can expect, all State and local authorities are not entirely prepared to deal with this unprecedented situation. Therefore, we suggest all Officers take note of the precautions and/or actions being utilized by their respective employers to minimize the risk of infection. Should you believe your respective employers are not engaging the proper mechanisms to do so, it is imperative to contact us so that we may assist in ensuring your safety remains the highest priority.
Please continue to check this blog periodically for updates on this and other important topics.