Inmates transferred to USP Thomson from Chicago prison with COVID-19 outbreak

Published: Apr. 25, 2020 at 2:29 PM CDT
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According to a statement issued by U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., at least 20 inmates were transferred from the Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC) in Chicago, where there is a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, to United States Penitentiary (USP) Thomson.

The statement issued Friday night reads, “BOP’s response to the threat of COVID-19 in federal prisons has been inadequate and troubling. The transfer of inmates from MCC Chicago, where there is a confirmed outbreak of the virus, to USP Thomson, where there has not yet been a confirmed case, is being done without proper screening and prevention procedures in place for staff and inmates. It is completely unacceptable that BOP did not give us advance notice of these transfers. While we are encouraged that BOP says it will soon expand testing at its facilities, it is irresponsible to put staff, inmates, and local communities at risk by transferring inmates without first putting in place adequate testing procedures. We urge BOP to halt these and any future inmate transfers from facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks until they test inmates prior to transfer."

Bustos, Durbin, and Duckworth also said, “Our concerns about these transfers are further exacerbated by the ongoing understaffing of USP Thomson. We remain committed to working with BOP to address the staffing shortages at the facility and again call on BOP to expeditiously hire additional staff to meet the needs of this growing and potentially vulnerable inmate population.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons' website, there are

TV6 reached out to the union, AFGE Local 4070, which represents government employees at United States Penitentiary Thomson.

Jon Zumkehr, Vice President of AFGE 4070 issued a statement to TV6, which reads, “our main concern is our critical low staffing levels and our pay not being competitive and being able to retain officers. Our officers have assumed the rolls to maintain pristine sanitation on top of doing their job of protecting the community by maintaining security of the facility. We take these duties serious and we have done everything possible to prevent and contain COVID-19 within our facilities.”

TV6 spoke with the union in February

We have also reached out to USP Thomson officials for comment, but have not yet heard back.