Legislators: Thomson federal prison no longer a quarantine site

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THOMSON, Ill. (KWQC) - The federal prison in Thomson, along with seven other federal prisons, will no longer be a designated quarantine site for inmates, area lawmakers announced Monday.

(KWQC)

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), Congressman David McKinley (WV-1), and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (IL), further announced that the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in coordination with the United States Marshals Service, will now test all inmates for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) before transferring them to the remaining BOP quarantine sites.

The announcement follows a bipartisan, bicameral letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal and U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington, led by the lawmakers last week, which raised questions about the dangers of transferring asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic inmates between facilities, the lawmakers said in a media release.

“After calling for COVID-19 testing for all newly-admitted inmates prior to transfer, we are encouraged by USMS’s and BOP’s new policy," they said in the release. "Testing every inmate and ensuring they are negative for COVID-19 before transferring them to quarantine sites is the right decision for inmates, staff, and local communities. We urge BOP to also test every inmate in BOP’s custody and confirm they are negative for COVID-19 prior to transferring them to another BOP facility, whether from a quarantine site or other BOP institution.

“Additionally, the elimination of eight locations from the BOP-designated quarantine list is another step in the right direction to protect inmates and staff from the spread of COVID-19. The safety and health of inmates and staff must be BOP’s top priority.

The lawmakers added that while the changes to BOP’s policy are “good news,” they are still concerned by ongoing staffing shortages affecting BOP institutions, including the Thomson prison.

“We are committed to working with BOP to address the staffing shortages at USP Thomson and other facilities and once again call on BOP to prioritize hiring additional staff to meet the needs of their institutions, particularly during this crisis,” they said in the release.