The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) starts its vaccination program starting with staff members. As first reported by AP in November, the vaccine was initially to be administered to staff before inmates. When this report was made, there were 3,624 federal inmates and 1,225 BOP staff who had tested positive for COVID-19. As of December 20, 2020, 5,771 federal inmates and 1,694 BOP staff have confirmed positive test results (Covid cases are tcarried away by the BOP on their site).

From an internal BOP memo to correctional staff that I reviewed;

As the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine begins, the Bureau of Prisons received its first shipment on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 and began administering the drug to correctional officers, health workers and other staff on time. full. Immunization staff protect the staff member, inmates of the facility and the community as staff move between the facility and the community and, therefore, immunization staff provide a wide range of protection to many. populations. Staff from FMC Ft. Worth, FMC Carswell, FCI Seagoville and FCC Butner were among the first to get vaccinated.

Operation Warp Speed ​​selected the Bureau as one of five federal entities to receive the vaccine, saying federal correctional officers are eligible as law enforcement and throughout the pandemic, many prisons across the country have become hot spots for the coronavirus. Originally funded with approximately $ 10 billion from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, Operation Warp Speed ​​is an interagency program that includes components of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA); the Ministry of Defense; private companies; and other federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Word came from an inmate at an institution in the mid-Atlantic United States that he is on a list to receive the vaccine the first of the year. Vaccinations are the first step in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. The roll-out of vaccines to inmates will certainly disrupt the number of compassionate release cases and the release of inmates under the CARES Act. In March 2020, within the framework of the CARES law, Attorney General William Barr led BOP Director Michael Carvajal use home containment to reduce prison populations. According to the BOP, since Barr’s directive, it has placed 8,070 inmates in home confinement in its prisons across the country. Compassionate release requests have hampered the federal justice system since the start of the pandemic, as those who were not released under the CARES Act asked for a reduced sentence by a federal judge, claiming COVID- 19 represented an imminent threat to their health.

I spoke to Jack Donson who retired from BOP and now consults and comments on BOP policies. Donson told me, “This is a turning point in the BOP’s response to COVID-19. First, I have noticed that some inmates who have been told they will be housebound are now being told that they will not. While I don’t have empirical data to see if this is a nationwide trend, there are a number of actions that could spell the end of the shift to home containment offered under of the CARES law.

The CARES law removed the 6-month ceiling on the length of time certain detainees could serve part of their sentence in house arrest. In reality, a person could serve several years of house arrest under the Barr directive. “I know of individual situations where there are people whose release date is 2024 and they are at home under the CARES Act,” Donson said.

However, Barr’s home containment note was implemented under “emergency conditions”, when the spread of COVID-19 ripped apart in prisons, infecting both inmates and staff. Even though we are in a second wave of the pandemic, the vaccine could mean that there is an end to the crisis at hand. As Donson told me, “The BOP has put a number of people in house arrest and the resources associated with their monitoring are limited, there is a budget. I imagine that the BOP has already exhausted its budget for the CARES ACT placement since there are quotas set for each private contract for residential reintegration services.