In an opinion in today's Washington Post titled We'll see many more covid-19 deaths in prisons if Barr and and Congress don't act now, Federal Public Defender Lisa Freeland and Community Defenders David Patton and Jon Sands argue that Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) inmates deaths due to COVID-19 "were entirely preventable, and many more will follow if responsible public officials do not act now." Although COVID-19 cases in the BOP are likely undercounted because of insufficient testing, the article notes that BOP cases "are rising exponentially, at a pace far suprpassing the U.S. population at large." Amog other things, the article goes on to say:\\
It is too late for the crisis to be entirely averted, but the worst can be prevented if Congress and Attorney General William P. Barr act with urgency. So far, however, Barr and federal prosecutors have opposed even modest efforts to reduce the prison population. In courtrooms across the country, when lawyers seek bail or compassionate release for vulnerable people accused or convicted of nonviolent offenses, federal prosecutors have vigorously opposed the requests — even in cases where people’s sentences are near completion. In nearly every case, prosecutors are making the same argument that Barr advanced in a recent statement: that inmates are safer in prison than they would be at home.
It is an absurd claim, contradicted by science and fact. The CDC’s guidance is unequivocal: Social distancing, hand-washing and cleanliness are key to reducing spread of the coronavirus. Numerous credible public-health experts have observed that overcrowded prisons with communal living; shared toilets, showers, and sinks; poor sanitation; and wholly inadequate medical care would allow covid-19 to sweep through the prison population far more quickly than the general public — with devastating consequences.
The Training Division is providing COVID-19 resources and materials, updated multiple times daily, to assist defenders and CJA panel attorneys understand and litigate issues releated to the COVID-19 pandemic.