NY CO union reps raise concerns about COVID-19 preparedness

FCI Ray Brook doesn't have the ability to test staff or inmates and lacks the necessary PPE to deal with a potential outbreak


By Ben Watson
Press-Republican

RAY BROOK, N.Y. — The correctional officer’s union at the Federal Correctional Institute Ray Brook is “sounding the alarm” that they are not prepared for a possible COVID-19 outbreak.

“The measures put in place (by the leadership of the Federal Bureau of Prisons) are nothing more than an attempt to appear that we are addressing the issues, while in reality we are doing nothing,” a news release from the union said.

FCI Ray Brook does not currently have the ability to test staff or inmates, the release said, and lacks personal protective equipment that would be necessary to deal with any potential outbreak.

The release, written by James Weldon, President of Local American Federation of Government Employees Chapter 3882 and representative for federal employees at FCI Ray Brook, detailed three main areas of concern for the facility, listed below.

BUREAU’S INPUT

In a statement in response to the Ray Brook union’s release, the bureau said it has been coordinating its COVID-19 efforts since January 2020 “using subject-matter experts both internal and external to the agency, including guidance and directives from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Vice President.”

In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the bureau statement said, it will move inmates under the current guidance found at https://www.bop.gov/coronavirus/covid19_status.jsp which will be reevaluated and updated as needed.

The bureau’s statement added, though, that the bureau has no authority to refuse inmates brought to them by the United States Marshall Service.

The bureau’s inmate movement exceptions include, but are not limited to, transfers related to forensic studies, writs, Interstate Agreements on Detainers, medical or mental health reasons and residential reentry center placements.

Inmates may also need to be moved to better manage detention bed space and assure that administrative facilities do not become overcrowded, the statement said.

The bureau has also instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all new inmates entering bureau facilities from outside the system.

NATIONAL UNION

Tuesday, a press release from the national American Federation of Government Employees union called for the federal bureau’s director, Michael Carvajal, to halt all transport of untested inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The release cited pending bureau transfers of 19 untested inmates from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where an inmate recently tested positive for COVID-19 to three federal facilities in central Pennsylvania as an example of how transfers could easily spread the disease further if they continue.

“(The bureau) must revisit their COVID-19 plan to guarantee the safety of all employees and inmates, including supplying adequate amounts of personal protective equipment,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said. “It is imperative that all transport of inmates is ceased until the COVID-19 crisis is under control.”

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©2020 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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