Congressman Fred Keller launches bipartisan Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus

August 16, 2020
Press Release
Calls for greater oversight of our nation’s federal prison system

Washington, D.C. —Today Congressman Fred Keller (R-PA) announced the creation of the bipartisan Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Reform Caucus.

 

Led by Congressman Keller, the group of U.S. House Republican and Democratic lawmakers aim to improve BOP accountability and transparency, address systemic issues within the BOP system, and ensure the health and safety of corrections officers, staff, inmates, and the communities surrounding the prisons.

 

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

 

Members of the BOP Reform Caucus include Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-15), Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Congresswomen Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13), and Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03).

 

On the launch of the BOP Reform Caucus, Congressman Fred Keller made the following statement:

 

“I am proud to launch the BOP Reform Caucus today to increase accountability and transparency within the Bureau of Prisons and continue to advocate for the heroes who go to work every day at federal prisons across America. With a $7 billion budget, more than 36,000 employees, and 172,000 inmates, BOP is a massive government agency, yet its leadership in Washington, D.C. lacks adequate congressional oversight. The continued movement of inmates across the nation during a pandemic and the most recent outbreak of COVID-19 in USP Lewisburg and FCC Allenwood are proof that the policies BOP set in place to mitigate the spread of the disease have failed. At this critical time in the re-opening phase of our economy and schools, this Caucus will allow Congress to work closely with BOP to ensure the health of our corrections officers, inmates, and the American people.”

 

Background

 

Despite the pandemic’s impact on the nation, the agency has continued to move inmates between facilities across the nation, often from hot spots to areas with few confirmed cases, leading to widespread concern among local communities, members of Congress, and health care professionals.

 

Congressman Keller has taken significant action to halt BOP’s movement of inmates during the pandemic and ensure the health and safety of corrections officers, staff, and inmates. Those actions include:

 

  • March 22: Sent a letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal requesting that he not transfer federal inmates to USP Lewisburg, USP Canaan, or FCC Allenwood.
  • March 24: Sent a second letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal reiterating the request to halt BOP inmate movement for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak after an inmate transferred to FCC Allenwood arrived sick enough to get tested for COVID-19.
  • March 26: Spoke by phone with BOP Director Michael Caravajal in order to get information about how to stop inmate movement during the COVID-19 national emergency.
  • March 31: Introduced the bipartisan Pausing All New Detention and Ending Movement of Inmates for Coronavirus (PANDEMIC) Act of 2020 in response to BOP continuing to move inmates between facilities across the nation despite confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the prison system. Additionally, Congressman Keller held a telephone town hall with nearly 4,000 corrections officers from Pennsylvania and across the country to discuss issues related to their work.
  • May 1: Introduced the Federal Prisons Accountability Act, legislation that would bring greater oversight and transparency to the federal Bureau of Prisons by requiring that the BOP Director to be confirmed by the United States Senate.

 

The announcement of the BOP Reform Caucus comes on the heels of reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in USP Lewisburg and FCC Allenwood. As a result of this recent outbreak, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has recommended no in-person instruction for Union County schools until the case numbers drop. 

 

BOP Reform Caucus Member Statements

 

“I’m honored to join the BOP Reform Caucus,” said Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. “I worked hard during the height of COVID-19 to ensure our correctional officers at FCI Raybrook in my district were allowed PPE to safely protect themselves, and I cosponsored the PANDEMIC Act to prohibit the transfer of federal inmates in order to slow the spread. This Caucus aims to increase transparency and communication within the BOP to ensure Congress can work with them effectively to understand and assist with their needs. Our prisons running smoothly is important for the safety and well-being for all of our communities.”

 

“As a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Bureau of Prisons, I’ve seen clearly that we need to fix this system. And it’s going to take a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to do it,” said Congressman Matt Cartwright. “Today marks the beginning of a coordinated effort to address longstanding issues like dangerous staffing practices that jeopardize the safety of staff and security of our correctional institutions.”

 

“The creation of the Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus will bring Members of Congress together in a way to proactively address the challenges facing the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the hardworking federal Corrections Officers, and those the government aims to rehabilitate,” said Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson.

 

“Tens of thousands of corrections officers in the Federal Bureau of Prisons show up to work every day and do their part to make our criminal justice system work and keep our communities safe,” said Congressman Rodney Davis. “Given the large size of the agency and recent COVID-19 outbreaks at federal correctional facilities, the Bureau is in need of additional Congressional oversight to ensure the employees, their families, and inmates are safe. I look forward to working with the bipartisan group of lawmakers in the BOP Reform Caucus to ensure the essential workers in the Bureau have the tools and resources they need to safely do their jobs.”

 

 

###