The Federal Prisons Lockdown Is Over At All But One Facility
The nationwide lockdown was implemented on Jan. 31 after two inmates died following a fight.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said on Thursday that earlier this month the agency had returned “select facilities to the appropriate modified operational status, thus ending the national lockdown.” The nationwide lockdown was implemented on Jan. 31 after two inmates died following a fight.
On Thursday afternoon a news update from the agency announced that the lockdown had been lifted, and advised visitors to check the websites for institutions or contact them for specific updates about operations.
BOP spokeswoman Kristie Breshears also told Government Executive that one institution remains secured. She did not name the facility.
Shane Fausey, president of the National Council of Prison Locals 33, told Government Executive that because of security reasons he couldn’t go into detail, but that generally BOP houses international narco terrorists, international drug cartels, organized crime figures, street gangs and other groups, so “when you have an incident involving a group or multiple groups you have to be extra cautious in how you handle that because it may have a spinoff of violence from that” at other institutions. Also, the pandemic “complicates what normal operations are, really,” he said.
“Most of our institutions have returned to our form of normal or COVID-19 normal if you want to call it that, but to say they're all back up to 100% would not be accurate because of these actors or potential of what could happen,” he continued. “Intelligence in a prison evolves minute to minute” and “we have to be cognizant; we have to be listening, we have to try to outmaneuver a continuing criminal enterprise...so they don't harm other people.”
Fausey also said that lockdowns, especially nationwide ones, are only used in certain circumstances.
“Lockdowns and modified operations are labor intensive, more expensive, and hard on employees,” he said. “The National Prison Council prefers normal institutional operations provided conditions warrant returning to such as safely as possible.”
Parker Strong, president of American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1010 Union, told Government Executive that based on his understanding, institutions were required to complete interviews of 50% of their inmate population before they could end lockdowns.
On Feb. 17, Sens. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., launched the bipartisan Senate Prison Policy Working Group to promote transparency at BOP, look at conditions of incarceration and protect human rights.
This new Senate group “is essential to helping us achieve our goal of creating safer conditions for those at correctional facilities. The health and safety of BOP inmates and staff must always remain our top priority,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who joined the working group as a founding member. “Senator Ossoff, Senator Braun, and I are committed to working on a bipartisan basis to improve conditions and safety, strengthen transparency and communications, and reduce recidivism in our federal prison system.”
Rep. Fred Keller, R-Pa., renewed the bipartisan Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus last February for the 117th Congress, which similarly seeks to reform the agency.
Fausey, from the Council of Prison Locals, applauded the move to bolster congressional oversight of the agency. The group “has the ability to improve decades of staffing shortages, inadequate funding, and develop legislation that will directly impact the safety of all of our correctional professionals and the incarcerated persons entrusted to their custody,” he said in a statement provided to Government Executive.
Joe Rojas, union advocate for the Council of Prison Locals, said the “lack of leadership is why we are in chaos and I’m afraid because of the chaos someone will get seriously hurt” or die.
During a hearing earlier this month BOP Director Michael Carvajal pushed back on criticism that the agency is chronically understaffed. He announced his retirement in January, but is staying until a successor is named.