Duckworth, Durbin, Bustos Demand Testing At FCI Pekin Following Significant COVID-19 Outbreak
[PEORIA, IL] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) have issued a second urgent call for all staff and inmates to immediately be tested for COVID-19 at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Pekin following another significant outbreak at the prison, this time with nearly 330 confirmed cases.
As case numbers continue to skyrocket throughout the nation, outbreaks at federal prisons can put inmates, staff and the larger community at risk. As of December 14th, 16 staff and 313 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 at FCI Pekin. As of December 15th, the number of positive cases had jumped to 353 inmates. In a letter to Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal and Warden Dan Sproul, the lawmakers urged FCI Pekin to test all staff and inmates in order to prevent further spread of the virus.
“It is unacceptable that staff and inmates are experiencing yet another significant outbreak at FCI Pekin. Clearly, heightened testing and mitigation strategies must be taken to protect staff, inmates and surrounding communities,” the lawmakers wrote.
This letter follows an earlier call for testing in October, after three staff members and 74 inmates were found positive. A month after receiving the initial letter, BOP informed the lawmakers it would refuse their request to provide full testing.
Dense living and working conditions within correctional facilities can lead to rapid and widespread transmission of COVID-19. Senators Duckworth and Durbin and Congresswoman Bustos have previously raised concerns about testing and understaffing at USP Thomson.
Text of the letter is below and can be found here.
December 14, 2020
Dear Director Carvajal and Warden Sproul:
We write once again to insist that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) immediately provide on-site COVID-19 testing for all staff and inmates at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Pekin.
As you know, our offices wrote BOP and FCI Pekin leadership on October 19, 2020 calling for immediate on-site COVID-19 testing for all staff and inmates at FCI Pekin. This request followed an outbreak of at least three staff and 74 inmates. On November 20, 2020 — one month after our initial letter — BOP finally responded and declined this request.
As of December 14, 2020, 16 staff and 313 inmates are currently positive for COVID-19 at the facility. It is unacceptable that staff and inmates are experiencing yet another significant outbreak at FCI Pekin. Clearly, heightened testing and mitigation strategies must be taken to protect staff, inmates and surrounding communities. Further—to get to the bottom of the ongoing COVID-19 issues at the facility—we request answers to the following questions:
1. How many staff have been tested for COVID-19 within the last two weeks? Within the last week?
2. How many inmates have been tested for COVID-19 in the last two weeks? Within the last week?
3. As of today, which units have cases of COVID 19?
4. Have all inmates in these units been tested in the last two weeks? In the last week?
5. Is FCI Pekin doing contact tracing to find close contacts of COVID-19 positive staff and inmates?
6. How many inmates have had close contact with a COVID-19 patient at FCI Pekin in the last two weeks? In the last week?
7. How many staff members have had close contact with a COVID-19 patient at FCI Pekin in the last two weeks? In the last week?
8. Have all close contacts with COVID-19 patients been notified of their exposure? Have all these close contacts received a COVID-19 test?
9. Is the prison on lockdown? What internal inmate movement has happened within the prison in the last two weeks?
10. Are staff who are working in units with outbreaks also working in other units of the prison?
11. Have inmates in units that have COVID-19 cases interacted with inmates in other units within the last two weeks?
12. Is BOP staff training happening in a socially distanced manner? What group trainings are ongoing at Pekin?
Thank you for your timely response. The answers to these questions will help our offices support FCI Pekin, your staff and local communities.
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