Union representative raise concerns over federal prison inmate transfers during coronavirus outbreak

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ALICEVILLE, Ala. (WCBI) – In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, federal prisons are still having to transfer inmates to different facilities all over the U.S.

But that decision is creating major concerns.

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Union representatives at the Women’s Federal Correctional Institution in Aliceville, Alabama are calling for all inmate movement to stop.

Last week, roughly 40 inmates from all over the country were transferred to the prison.

The Bureau of Prisons said they test all inmates for COVID-19 prior to them being transferred.

However, one union rep said that still doesn’t eliminate his fears that one of those inmates could still bring the potentially fatal virus into the facility — putting everyone at risk.

“This week we’re scheduled to have 20, and we’re scheduled to have another potential 180 that are scheduled to come into the institution,” said Terrence Windham, a rep with the American Federation of Government Employees Union.

Windham admits, due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, he has some serious concerns about new inmates coming into the facility.

“The biggest concern is that you’re going to introduce an inmate that potentially could have some kind of COVID-19 virus, or they could be expanding that virus to the inmate population, which could, in turn, expand that to the staff,” he said.

All new inmates will have to be quarantined for 14 days once they arrive at the facility, but Windham thinks they’ll still be at risk.

That’s why he and state lawmakers have now sent a request to BOP requesting they suspend all inmate movement until further notice.

“Just keep all the inmates where they are, and not have any inmates come into the institution,” said Windham. Keep them housed where they are, because where we are inside, we know that we don’t have any inmates that currently have the virus, but if you introduce new inmates in, you don’t know what you’re introducing into the institution.”

In an email, BOP said it is limiting its transfers, but under federal law, it can not suspend all inmate movement.

Under the new limitations, the BOP said inmates will be transferred for reasons such as to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment, Interstate Agreements on Detainers (IAD), or to manage overcrowding.

However, Windham said he still disagrees with the reasoning and will continue calling for the transfers to come to a halt.

“As this crisis progresses, I hope that they realize the dangers and the potential danger that they put the staff as well as the inmates in and that they would stop all movement,” Windham expressed. “I’m not sure if they’ll do it or not but it’s not going to be because we didn’t advocate for that to happen,” said Windham.

According to the Bureau of Prions, so far, roughly 30 inmates and 30 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

To read the Bureau of Prisons full statement on inmate transfers during the COVID-19 outbreak, click on the highlighted link for more information.