April 15, 2021

Durbin Questions BOP Director Carvajal on COVID-19 Prison Policies

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today asked questions during the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) oversight hearing with BOP Director Michael Carvajal. Durbin asked Carvajal about why BOP has not issued more home confinement or compassionate release orders to reduce overcrowding in prisons and protect vulnerable staff and inmates from COVID-19. 

Durbin shared the recently published story of Jimmy Monk, a first-time offender convicted of a non-violent bank fraud offense, who collapsed in the shower and died from COVID-19 at the minimum-security Talladega Federal Prison Camp.  BOP reported he had no COVID-19 symptoms, but his emails home and reports from those inside the prison reveal he had multiple symptoms and yet received no medical attention.

“Last March, Senator Grassley and I, along with a bipartisan group of 12 additional Senators, wrote to you and to the Attorney General, William Barr, to express serious concerns about the health and wellbeing of prison staff and inmates... It didn’t take a degree or Dr. Fauci’s resume to realize that our prisons were particularly vulnerable because of so many people gathered in such a limited space,” Durbin said. “We came up with the First Step Act and other policies which established the opportunity for home confinement and compassionate release to reduce overcrowding and to allow those prisoners, who we perceive not to be a threat to society, to have a chance to leave that prison setting…Why was a man like Jimmy Monk…not placed in home confinement? Were you given orders from above, in terms of compassionate release and home confinement, to restrict the number of opportunities to be offered?

Carvajal said they have transferred over 24,000 inmates to home confinement since passage of the CARES Act, but only approximately 7,000—about 4% of BOP’s population at the beginning of the pandemic—were transferred under the CARES Act. The others were eligible without the expanded authority.

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

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