Reps. Lieu, Barragan Urge Release, Home Confinement of Federal Prisoners in COVID-19-Struck San Pedro Facility

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FCI Terminal Island

WASHINGTON — Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Nanette Barragan (D-San Pedro) on April 30 sent a letter to the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons calling for the release or home confinement of all inmates at Terminal Island, a federal prison facility in San Pedro.

The letter to Michael Carvajal, which was copied to Attorney General William Barr, comes following reports that more than half of all inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. It reads as follows:

“Two of us are members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. One of us represents Terminal Island. There is a massive COVID-19 outbreak at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI), Terminal Island in San Pedro, California, as well as COVID-19 outbreaks at various federal prison facilities across the country.

“We request that you immediately take steps to place all inmates at FCI Terminal Island into home confinement or exercise compassionate release. These actions should be taken in consultation with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and other stakeholders to ensure the health of the community. We also request you to share with us your plans for addressing COVID-19 at your other facilities.

“On April 29, The Los Angeles Times reported a deadly outbreak of COVID-19 at FCI Terminal Island. This is reportedly the worst outbreak in the nation at a prison facility, with over half of the inmates infected with COVID-19. Two inmates have died, and 10 staff members and at least 570 of the 1,055 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus at this low-security facility.

“Like many other Bureau of Prisons institutions across the country, we have learned that the conditions in which prisoners live can be inhumane and that it is nearly impossible to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing. We believe that placing inmates in conditions with high exposure to the virus — especially when alternatives exist — likely violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

“The outbreak at FCI Terminal Island is particularly egregious given that it has been more than a month since Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to expand the Bureau of Prisons’ authority to place inmates in home confinement. It is inexcusable that BOP has not used home confinement — or compassionate release — to a greater extent.

“Given the lethal nature of COVID-19, we urge you to immediately take steps to place all inmates at FCI Terminal Island into home confinement or exercise compassionate release in accordance with the recommendations of public health officials to ensure the safety of the community. In addition, we request that you provide us with your plan for addressing COVID-19 outbreaks at all BOP facilities. Finally, we urge you to communicate any requests for additional resources to our offices.”

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