April 29, 2020

Wyden Presses Bureau of Prisons to Release Critical Demographic Data on Incarcerated People and Staff Affected by COVID-19

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today urged the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to release system-wide demographic data on the number of incarcerated people and staff affected by COVID-19.

In a letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal, Wyden and 15 of his colleagues requested data on the age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, pregnancy status, sexual orientation, and disability of all incarcerated people and BOP staff who have been tested for, contracted, recovered from, and died from coronavirus, as well as for those who have been transferred to home confinement or granted compassionate release.

“According to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, state data suggests that COVID-19 poses a higher risk for communities of color. Of the states that have reported the race or ethnicity of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and related deaths, 20 out of 31 states reported that Black people accounted for a higher share of cases compared to their share of the total population, and 19 of 24 states reported that Black people accounted for a higher share of deaths. Similar trends have also been evident in Latino communities,” the senators wrote.

“As of today, BOP reports that 1,046 federal inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and are still sick, 390 inmates have recovered, and 28 inmates have died as a result of the virus. In addition, 330 BOP staff have tested positive for the virus and are still sick, and 124 staff have recovered; press reports indicate that at least one staff member has died of the virus. BOP should immediately include system-wide demographic data in its public reporting of these numbers,” the senators continued.

In addition to Wyden, the letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chris Coons, D-Del., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Kamala Harris, D-Calif, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Ed Markey, D-Mass., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. 

Earlier this month, Wyden led an effort requesting comprehensive demographic data about testing availability from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after reports showing COVID-19 disproportionately affecting communities of color.

A copy of the letter is available here.