The Justice Department’s inspector general will conduct remote inspections of Bureau of Prisons facilities to ensure they are following best practices to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus after hundreds of federal inmates tested positive for the virus.
The review, announced Wednesday, comes as the federal prison system struggles with a growing number of coronavirus cases and complaints from inmates, advocacy groups and correction officers about how officials are handling the pandemic among their 122 facilities.
Attorney General William Barr recently sent some of his closest advisers to federal prisons identified as coronavirus hot spots, including FCC Oakdale in Louisiana, where six inmates have died, a Justice Department official said.
The attorney general’s counselors were sent to observe the conditions on the ground firsthand and report back to Barr. They also visited FCI Elkton in Ohio, where five inmates have died, and FCC Butner, a prison complex in North Carolina that has seen four inmate deaths, and are expected to visit other hot spot prisons in the near future, the official said. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Health officials have been warning for more than a decade about the dangers of epidemics in jails and prisons, which are ideal environments for virus outbreaks.