The 68 undersigned organizations are writing to urge the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to include certain demographic information in its daily reporting of COVID-19 cases within federal facilities. When publicly reporting each day, BOP should include the age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability for incarcerated persons and staff who have contracted, recovered from, and died from COVID-19. BOP should also include this same demographic information in its reporting of people released to home confinement. Additionally, BOP should be reporting the number of people released through compassionate release with demographic information.
BOP is currently providing data on the number of COVID-19 cases among those incarcerated and staff. Each day, at approximately 3:00 p.m. (EST), BOP reports the number of incarcerated persons and staff who have contracted, recovered from, and died from COVID-19. BOP also indicates how many federal facilities and residential reentry centers (RRCs) have been impacted, as well as the number of people who have been released to home confinement.
As of April 20, BOP reports 497 incarcerated persons and 319 staff tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-two incarcerated persons have died. Among these numbers, BOP reports 238 people have recovered from COVID-19. Almost 40 percent of BOP prisons are impacted, with 45 of 122 facilities indicating COVID-19 cases. Another 14 RRCs have positive cases. To date, a little over 1,280 people have been moved to home confinement. Without demographic information, however, these numbers do not present an accurate picture of the COVID-19 impact on federal prisons. Furthermore, we understand that BOP’s reporting is an undercount given the varied and insufficient testing protocols throughout facilities. BOP has acknowledged that its current reporting will merely provide “insight.” Therefore, BOP should flesh out this data with information on age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. BOP should also clarify whether the data point on positive tests includes those incarcerated persons and staff who have recovered from COVID-19. If BOP is deducting recoveries from positives, it should state that clearly on its website.
Additionally, with 70 percent of the BOP population being Black and Latinx, we are concerned that people of color will bear the brunt of COVID-19 outbreaks in federal facilities. Also, with BOP’s reliance on the PATTERN risk assessment tool to identify people for home confinement, we are concerned that people of color will be disproportionately excluded for such release. According to a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) analysis of PATTERN, just 7 percent of Black men, in comparison to 30 percent of White men, would be classiﬁed at the minimum risk level that BOP is using to identify who is eligible for home conﬁnement in the wake of COVID-19.
Finally, with women now the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population, we are concerned that they could be disproportionately represented among COVID-19 cases in BOP. Demographic data can help respond to these concerns.
With recent reports indicating that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting Black people, elected ofﬁcials have called for health agencies to collect and report demographic data on COVID19. We are asking BOP to do the same. Again, in a manner consistent with privacy laws, BOP should include in its daily, public reporting the age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability for incarcerated persons and staff who have contracted, recovered from, and died from COVID-19. BOP should also provide data on home conﬁnement and compassionate release, along with demographic information, in this accounting.
Thank you for considering this request. If you have any questions, please contact Kanya Bennett, Senior Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union, at email@example.com, or Sakira Cook, Justice Reform Project Director, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, at firstname.lastname@example.org.