News Releases

Senator Murray pushes for legislation that would reveal critical data about the COVID-19 crisis in federal, state, and local correctional facilities.

Senator Murray: “We need to be taking the necessary precautions to beat COVID-19 everywhere, including in correctional facilities”

(Washington, D.C.) — U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), along with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA, 7th), and other Senate and House Democrats, announced they will reintroduce the COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act, bicameral legislation that would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the United States Marshals Service (USMS), and state governments to collect and publicly report detailed data about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in federal, state, and local correctional facilities. The bill was originally introduced in August 2020.

“We need to be taking the necessary precautions to beat COVID-19 everywhere, including in correctional facilities, where incarcerated people have too often been exposed to this deadly disease because of lax health and safety measures,” Senator Murray said. “This legislation is an important step we should take towards better understanding and addressing the impact of COVID-19 in correctional facilities.”

Although prisons and jails have become hotspots for the rapid spread of COVID-19, there is a troubling lack of comprehensive and publicly-available data from the BOP, the USMS, and state and local governments about the spread and management of COVID-19 in correctional facilities.

At the federal level, the BOP posts daily COVID-19 updates on its website but excludes important information, such as hospitalization numbers, and does not disaggregate data based on demographic categories. The USMS provides no data on its website on COVID-19 cases for individuals in its custody. At the state and local level, many state-run jails are not publicly reporting any information about COVID-19 cases, aside from a small number of large facilities. Even amongst the facilities that are reporting some information, however, the data are not standardized, and no central authority is ensuring that the data are easily accessible to and digestible by policymakers, public health experts, criminal justice professionals, and the public. This lack of detailed and public data is making it harder to manage the pandemic and contributing to the rampant spread of the virus both inside correctional facilities across the country and in the communities in which they are situated. This places incarcerated individuals, correctional staff, and the public at risk.  

The COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act would provide public health experts, policymakers, and the public with critical information about COVID-19 in correctional facilities. The bill does this by:

  • Requiring BOP, USMS, and state and local correctional facilities to submit the following data to the CDC on a weekly basis, and regularly publish on their websites:
    • the numbers of incarcerated individuals and correctional staff who have been tested for COVID-19, and the type of tests performed,
    • the results of COVID-19 tests, including the numbers of confirmed negative tests, confirmed positive tests, pending tests, and the average time to obtain test results,
    • the outcomes of COVID-19 cases, including the numbers of people who were hospitalized, recovered, placed in or released from quarantine or medical isolation, or died with COVID-19,
    • the term of imprisonment and time served for incarcerated individuals who have been infected with COVID-19;
    • the numbers of incarcerated individuals and correctional staff who have been given a first does of a vaccine, have declined a vaccination, and are fully vaccinated;
  • Mandating that the data collected and reported be disaggregated by sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, disability, and geography; and
  • Subjecting states that fail to submit the required data to the CDC to a penalty in the form of a 10% reduction in future Byrne JAG grant funding.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Murray has called for action and legislation to mitigate the rampant spread of COVID-19 throughout correctional facilities. Last year, Senators Murray, Warren, and Booker wrote to former Attorney General William Barr and the BOP urging the BOP to take necessary precautions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safety and health of medically vulnerable inmates, including medically vulnerable pregnant individuals. 

The COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act has been endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); American Public Health Association; AMEND at UCSF; Community Oriented Correctional Health Services; CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants); Dream Corps JUSTICE; Drug Policy Alliance; Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM); Federal Public and Community Defenders; First Focus Campaign for Children; Government Information Watch; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Lambda Legal; Law Enforcement Action Partnership; Legal Action Center; National Association of Counsel for Children; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; National Association of Social Workers; National Center for Youth Law; National HIRE Network; National Juvenile Justice Network; Pennsylvania Prison Society; R Street Institute; REFORM Alliance; StoptheDrugWar.org; The Justice Collaborative; The Sentencing Project; Union for Reform Judaism; Vera Institute of Justice; and Dr. Brie Williams, Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

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