WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led a dozen of their colleagues Monday in complementary letters to the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) urging changes in the availability of COVID-19 therapeutic treatments for prisoners and other detained individuals. The letters also ask for updated information on COVID-19 protocols and treatments, as well as details on the number of prisoners or detainees affected. The letters follow up on partial information relayed by the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response in May.
“Significant progress has been made to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic under President Biden’s leadership, particularly through recent advances in therapeutics. Yet the experience of the pandemic for the federally incarcerated population remains starkly worse than for non-incarcerated individuals,” they wrote. Specific to ICE, the senators added: “… individuals in congregate settings, like immigration detention, are widely recognized to be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. This disparity is driven by the nature of congregate care and population characteristics and by the difference in usage and availability of public health tools, including social distancing, masking, vaccines, testing, and therapeutic treatments. This discrepancy can only be addressed with affirmative, comprehensive changes … to improve the availability of vaccines, testing, and therapeutics. We write to urge you to make those changes.”
The full letter to Tae Johnson, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, can be found at this link.
The full letter to Michael Carvajal, Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, can be found at this link.
In addition to Cardin and Murray, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the letters were signed by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).