LEWISBURG — Congressman Fred Keller (R-Pa. 12) is lashing out at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) after receiving reports that inmates from coronavirus “hot spots” are “in transit or will be in transit today” to three facilities in Central Pennsylvania.
Keller was joined on a conference call Monday morning by Shane Fausey, Council of Prison Locals C-33, and Andy Kline, Local 148 president, Council of Prisons Local-33, USP Lewisburg.
During the call, Keller said he was “extremely disturbed” to recently learn of rumors inmates currently housed in coronavirus “hot spots” would be transferred to USP Lewisburg, USP Canaan and FCC Allenwood.
Kline previously said the BOP was planning to move 30 to 100 inmates to the three institutions from New York City.
Upon contacting the BOP, Keller said he was told there were “no immediate plans” to transfer the inmates.
On Sunday, Keller said he wrote to BOP Director Michael Carvajal asking him to halt all inmate transfers.
“We heard nothing back,” Keller said. “(Monday) morning, we heard the transfers or movement would occur... (BOP) literally passed the buck to the U.S. Marshals Services.”
The U.S. Marshals Service handles the transfer of inmates.
“The transfers went without notice to us... without any communication to us,” Keller said.
He did not have information on how many inmates were being transferred, but said on Monday morning they were “in transit or will be in transit today.”
“It was absolutely shameful for this to occur, that there would be no communication with our office,” Keller said. “We need to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Fausey said he’s been “very frustrated” with the BOP since learning of the potential transfers on March 8.
“We believe that hot zones such as New York City and California, those citizens have been asked to shelter in place,” he said. “We believe the BOP should also be asked to shelter (inmates) in place... Any time you move people, you risk the spread of the virus.”
According to Kline, when inmates are received at USP Lewisburg their temperatures will be checked by staff.
“We are going to quarantine any inmate that comes here,” Kline said.
However, he said prisons have a limited number of protective personal equipment (PPE) for staff to use.
“If every institution were to get a few to a dozen sick inmates, we will excel our amount of PPE nationwide in a week or so,” Kline said.
He also stressed that BOP staff members are not trying to “get out of work” or “diminish our responsibilities.”
“We care about the people we serve, our neighbors, our community,” Kline said. “We are trying to limit the impact of bringing (coronavirus) into our area.”
Fausey said this issue needs to be brought to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office and the White House.
Keller noted that he’s already reached out to his contacts in the Attorney General’s Office.
“Why was I given notice last week there was no immediate plans to move anybody?” Keller asked. “Until I can get some straight answers I am of the mindset ‘why are they doing this?’”