Congressman Kim wants BOP to lock down Fort Dix Prison as Covid cases spike in facility
There are 797 inmates and 26 staff members at the Fort Dix Prison who have active cases of Covid-19 coronavirus,
As a result, Ocean and Burlington County 3rd District Congressman Andy Kim (D) wants the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and its Director Michael Carvajal, to lock it down.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 at Ft. Dix FCI is a clear and present danger to the federal employee staff, the inmates, and to our communities in New Jersey surrounding the Joint Base. I continue to hear from Bureau of Prisons (BOP) leadership that the situation in under control or improving, but it is clearly not. Ft. Dix FCI has had the highest number of total active cases of any federal prison in the country. Just this morning, active cases rose to 797 total cases among inmates, and 26 among staff, more than double the next highest affected facility in the country," Kim said in a statement on Monday. "I urgently call upon BOP leadership to take immediate action to stop the spread of COVID-19 at Ft. Dix FCI. There are concrete steps BOP Director Michael Carvajal can take immediately. He should order the lock down of Ft. Dix FCI, devote full attention to reducing inmate-to-inmate spread, continue the moratorium of inmate transfers in and out of the facility that is due to expire this week, increase testing availability for staff and inmates, and provide all resources available to staff in order to address the outbreak there. Not doing so would further endanger the health and safety of thousands of people and would lead to the full loss of confidence in Director Carvajal’s leadership."
The rise in Covid cases at the prison isn't sudden, in fact it's been trending in this direction since the fall.
The Courier Post reports that there were more than 300 actives cases reported in October, then down to 16 on December 10 and began spiking by December 30, 2020.
They cite BOP data adding that 533 inmates and 45 staff members who had the virus, recovered.
Meanwhile, Congressman Kim says this isn't the first, second or even third time he's requested the BOP and Director Carvajal to make a move at Fort Dix to improve the Covid and health situations during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his Monday statement, Kim laid out what his actions have been during the pandemic.
- April 23, 2020: He co-sponsored "the bipartisan PANDEMIC Act, which limits the transfer of prisoners between facilities during the COVID-19 public health emergency."
- October 9, 2020: He sent a "letter to BOP Director Carvajal expressing the need to halt transfers immediately and address the crisis at Ft. Dix FCI."
- November 9, 2020: He signed "onto letter to Director Carvajal with members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation, led by Senator Menendez asking for action to be taken to address outbreaks at Ft. Dix FCI."
- November 18 – November 20: Kim "made personal phone calls to Warden David Ortiz at Ft. Dix FCI, as well as Regional Director Nicole English of the Bureau of Prisons who oversees the facility to press for changes and offer assistance."
- December 2, 2020: He submitted "Questions for the Record to the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, titled “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service”, calling on the BOP to provide direct answers for why conditions have deteriorated at Ft. Dix FCI, and on discrepancies in the number of total positive cases at the facility."
- December 4, 2020: He "released a joint statement with BOP Reform Caucus Chair Fred Keller calling for an end to the transfer of inmates between BOP facilities which puts our communities at risk for increased spread, and for BOP leadership to outline a detailed and coordinated strategy to counter the increased outbreaks of COVID-19 in BOP facilities across the country."
- December 8, 2020: Kim joined "New Jersey Congressional Delegation in a letter sent by Senator Menendez to Director Carvajal again asking to halt transfers which have led to COVID-19 spread."
- January 6, 2021: He spoke "with AFGE Local 2001 leaders representing staff at Ft. Dix FCI to receive an update on conditions."
To date, there have been 532,959 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus since March of 2020 across the state of New Jersey, as reported by the State DOH on Monday afternoon.
Dan Alexander contributed to this report.
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