Congressman Fred Keller responds to rise in COVID-19 cases in Union County federal prisons

December 10, 2020
In The News

Union County, Pa. – As cases of coronavirus continue to rise at federal prisons across the country, Congressman Fred Keller (PA-12) released a statement calling the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) “inadequate in containing outbreaks.”

The statement was released in conjunction with Andy Kim, (NJ-03), who also has prisons in his district that have experienced outbreaks.

Keller's district includes Union County, where federal prisons in Allenwood and Lewisburg previously experienced COVID-19 outbreaks. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has created significant challenges for the federal prison system tasked with keeping inmates and correctional officers safe. However, it is clear that the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) COVID-19 response plan has been inadequate in containing outbreaks at a number of facilities across the country. Despite Members of Congress raising the alarm about the spread of the virus under its watch, BOP leadership has failed to effectively respond to growing outbreaks in the federal prison system.

“Despite the uptick in cases in certain facilities, the BOP continues to transfer inmates between facilities, in many cases transferring COVID-19 positive inmates into new facilities, exposing staff and other personnel to the virus. It is irresponsible to continue to risk exposure through inmate transfers from various parts of the country. We firmly believe that during the coronavirus pandemic, all inmate transfers between BOP facilities should be halted in order to protect the health and well-being of inmates, as well as the thousands of BOP correctional officers across the country.

Allenwood United States Penitentiary previously had an outbreak, with 120 inmate and five staff cases reported on the  BOP website on Nov. 24. As of Dec. 7, the website shows there are now three inmates who tested positive and 11 staff. A total of 132 inmates and two staff have recovered.

Allenwood Medium shows shows 45 current inmates cases and nine staff cases. Allenwood Low shows 20 inmates with active COVID-19 cases and six staff. 

Related Reading: State and federal prisons in Pennsylvania experiencing more COVID-19 outbreaks

The United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg also experienced an outbreak in August, with almost 50 inmates at one point reported as being positive for COVID-19. Public relations representatives at BOP had told at the time that they were not taking transfers at the Union County facilities. Currently, there are no active COVID-19 cases among inmates. 

Related Reading: USP Lewisburg now reports 46 inmates positive for COVID-19

“The BOP must also clearly outline, and make public, the steps that it will take to improve its response to outbreaks in its facilities. We have heard deep concerns from our constituents for the health and safety of their friends or family in federal prisons, or that serve as staff in the facilities.  Every day that the BOP refuses to take action, is a day that more Americans are put at risk. We stand ready to work alongside the BOP to find common ground and solutions that will save lives.”

Congressman Keller and Congressman Kim are members of the Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus, of which Congressman Keller is the founder and chairman.