April 24, 2020

Durbin, Duckworth, Bustos sound alarm about federal inmate transfer after outbreak at Chicago facility

Source: Chicago Sun-Times


Three Illinois lawmakers sounded an alarm Friday over the transfer of at least 20 inmates from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak, to a federal prison in northwest Illinois which has no confirmed cases.

Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Rep. Cheri Bustos — all Illinois Democrats — said the Federal Bureau of Prisons should not have sent the prisoners to the facility in Thomson, Ill., without taking more safeguards.

The prisoners should have been tested for COVID-19 before leaving the MCC, they said. The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month about how coronavirus infections appears to be spreading among the more than 600 inmates in the downtown high-rise prison.

“BOP’s response to the threat of COVID-19 in federal prisons has been inadequate and troubling,” Durbin, Duckworth and Bustos said in a statement. Thomson is in Bustos’ congressional district.

“The transfer of inmates from MCC Chicago, where there is a confirmed outbreak of the virus, to USP Thomson, where there has not yet been a confirmed case, is being done without proper screening and prevention procedures in place for staff and inmates.

“It is completely unacceptable that BOP did not give us advance notice of these transfers. While we are encouraged that BOP says it will soon expand testing at its facilities, it is irresponsible to put staff, inmates, and local communities at risk by transferring inmates without first putting in place adequate testing procedures. We urge BOP to halt these and any future inmate transfers from facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks until they test inmates prior to transfer.”

“Our concerns about these transfers are further exacerbated by the ongoing understaffing of USP Thomson. We remain committed to working with BOP to address the staffing shortages at the facility and again call on BOP to expeditiously hire additional staff to meet the needs of this growing and potentially vulnerable inmate population.”

By:  Lynn Sweet