Congressman Fred Keller introduces PANDEMIC Act to stop inmate movement across federal prison system

March 31, 2020
Press Release
Bill would halt inmate movement during COVID-19 national emergency

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Fred Keller (R-PA) Tuesday introduced the Pausing All New Detention and Ending Movement of Inmates for Coronavirus (PANDEMIC) Act of 2020 in response to ongoing concerns about the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) continued movement of inmates in BOP custody during the COVID-19 mitigation period. BOP has continued to move inmates between facilities across the nation despite confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the federal prison system, including one inmate death as a result of COVID-19.


Congressman Keller’s bill was introduced with bipartisan support, and original co-sponsors Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA), and Congressman Mike Bost (R-Ill.).


On the introduction of the PANDEMIC Act, Congressman Fred Keller (R-PA) made the following comment:


“I am committed to leaving no stone unturned in the effort to protect our corrections officers and local communities from COVID-19. That is why I am introducing the PANDEMIC Act today – to halt inmate movement during this national emergency.


“While inmates are dying from COVID-19, corrections officers are getting sick from COVID-19, and the rest of the country is working together to stop the spread of this virus by altering and pausing our livelihoods, the Bureau of Prisons must do its part and stop moving potentially sick inmates around the country.


“While many, including myself, continue to believe the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons can do more to halt inmate movement on their own, BOP Director Michael Carvajal told me directly that the law must be changed to do so.


“Given the urgency and bipartisan support Congress has put behind responding to the immediate impacts of COVID-19, it is my hope that this legislation can be brought up as soon as possible when we return to session.


“In the meantime, I will be using every effort to continue working with the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons to get inmate movement stopped as soon as possible.”


BACKGROUND: Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District contains two federal prisons—USP Lewisburg and FCC Allenwood, both in Union County—with a third, USP Canaan, directly outside of the district.


Introduction of the PANDEMIC Act comes after weeks of Congressman Keller’s efforts to get the Bureau of Prisons to halt inmate movement on their own accord in order to protect inmates, Corrections Officers, and the communities surrounding federal prisons. Those efforts include:


In addition, Union County officials and local hospitals sent a letter to the Bureau of Prisons threatening legal action over continued inmate movement, expressing concerns that local hospitals would not be able to handle a large-scale COVID-19 outbreak in one of the federal prisons while also protecting the community.