The federal Bureau of Prisons imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all new inmates, a challenging directive for crowded prisons as they try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal reports. Bipartisan pressure mounted for the Trump administration to transfer at-risk inmates to home detention and civil-rights groups urged President Donald Trump to commute the sentences of sick and elderly prisoners who could benefit from compassionate release. Health experts have warned that a disease outbreak could devastate jail and prison populations. The federal system’s 175,000 inmates share tight quarters, spend much of their time together and often have what critics call inadequate access to health care. “It’s chaos, and it’s going to get worse,” said Joe Rojas, Southeast regional vice president of the Council of Prison Locals, who works at the Coleman federal prison in Florida.
Three inmates and at least three employees in federal prisons have tested positive for coronavirus. Union officials said at least eight employees have tested positive, with others in quarantine. Federal prisons have suspended visitation, limited inmate movement and are separating groups during meals and recreation time. Union leaders and inmates doubt such measures will be enough to stop the virus. The bureau said it was “taking aggressive steps to protect the safety and security of all staff and inmates.” Correctional officers will face additional risks and burdens by supervising the 14-day quarantine, said Terrence Windham, a correctional officer at the Aliceville prison in Alabama. The bureau didn’t say how the quarantine would work. A bipartisan group of senators urged Attorney General William Barr and BOP Director Michael Carvajal to release or transfer to home confinement certain terminally ill and elderly inmates.