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March 22, 2020

Rep. Pressley, Lawmakers Call for Compassionate Release of Those in Federal Detainment Facilities

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and several federal lawmakers are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons to grant compassionate release for individuals held at federal detainment facilities. Their statement comes following the first report of an individual in federal custody testing positive for COVID-19. The individual is detained at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn (MDC Brooklyn), New York.  A joint statement from Congresswoman Pressley and Reps. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is below:

“Many of us have been concerned for some time about the Bureau’s ability to manage the challenges presented by the almost inevitable spread of COVID-19 in our federal prison system. With news of the first incarcerated person testing positive for COVID-19 at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, we believe rapid, proactive departmentwide steps are in order to protect the health and safety of those detained and staff at these facilities, alike. We urge the Department and the Bureau to exercise existing authority to grant compassionate release of incarcerated people who are elderly or have underlying health conditions, and who pose no risk to public safety. We further urge federal prisons and jails to implement streamlined procedures to release individuals who have not been convicted of any crimes and are awaiting trial in prison or jail. Lastly, we urge that the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to exercise maximum restraint in terms of bringing additional individuals into the court and jail system. Adding to our prison population carries great health risk at this time and should only be done when an individual presents imminent risk of harm.”

The majority of those detained at MDC Brooklyn and MCC Manhattan have not been convicted and are awaiting trial.

On March 10, the lawmakers sent a letter to the Bureau of Prisons pushing for answers on how the agency will prevent spread of COVID-19 within federal facilities and protect the health of those detained. That letter is online here.  

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