U.S. Justice Department: officials in Louisiana prison botched handling of COVID-19 pandemic

  • In US
  • 2020-11-17 19:42:26Z
  • By Reuters

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) officials made numerous mistakes early during the pandemic, hobbling their ability to control the spread of COVID-19 at a federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, the U.S. Justice Department's internal watchdog has found.

In a new report issued on Tuesday, Inspector General Michael Horowitz faulted Oakdale prison officials, saying they "failed to promptly" implement COVID-19 screening protocols, took too long to limit inmate movement and failed to properly quarantine and isolate inmates, among other issues.

"We identified numerous failures in Oakdale officials' response to the COVID-19 outbreak that undermined their ability to contain the spread of the disease at the complex," the report says.

Oakdale was among the first federal prisons early on during the pandemic to experience a serious outbreak of COVID-19, and one of its inmates - Patrick Jones, who was imprisoned for nearly 13 years on a nonviolent drug charge - was the first in a now lengthy list of federal inmates to die from the deadly disease.

As of Nov. 8, more than 1,400 Oakdale inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, and eight inmates have died from the illness, according to data the BOP provided to the inspector general.

A BOP spokesman did not have any immediate comment on the findings. But in a response provided to the inspector general, the BOP's deputy director said the bureau took issue with some of the report's claims.

The BOP said it complied with guidance to screen staff and inmates for COVID, took proper steps to limit inmate movement during the pandemic, and provided proper protective gear and guidance to employees on how to take precautions to protect against the spread of the disease.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Aurora Ellis)


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