Fedweek

The pandemic has caused a number of problems at federally run prisons and detention facilities, including by worsening existing personnel shortages, according to a report by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.

“Longstanding staffing shortages at correctional and detention facilities, which were exacerbated by the pandemic, impeded the ability of some facilities to respond to COVID-19. Healthcare and correctional staffing shortages made it difficult for some BOP institutions to fully implement strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while also providing routine medical care to inmates,” it said.

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Similarly, the pandemic “exacerbated already low staffing levels at Indian Country detention facilities and limited staff’s ability to focus on security measures” and resulted in lower staff availability at border patrol stations, office of field operations ports of entry, and ICE detention centers, said the report that summarized the findings of IG inspections and audits at Justice, Interior and Homeland Security.

“Although the BOP, CBP, and ICE reported the use of strategies such as overtime and temporary assignment of staff from other facilities to alleviate staffing challenges, staff survey respondents from these agencies expressed concern about continued shortages,” it said.

Other main problems cited included that the facilities were not designed for social distancing, quarantine, or medical isolation; that transporting inmates and detainees added to the risk for the employees involved; and that guidance on safety protocols and oversight varied among agencies and the types of facilities.

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