- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A bipartisan group of senators Tuesday demanded Attorney General William P. Barr release low-risk offenders amid reports that some federal prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Conditions of confinement do not afford individuals the opportunity to take proactive steps to protect themselves, and prisons often create the ideal environment for the transmission of contagious disease,” the senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Barr and Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“For these reasons, it is important that consistent with the law and taking into account public safety and health concerns, that the most vulnerable inmates are released or transferred to home confinement, if possible,” the letter continued.

The letter was signed by more than a dozen senators on both sides of the aisle.
Top Republicans who signed the letter include Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah and Mike Crapo of Iowa.

The Democratic lineup of senators included former presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala D. Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory A. Booker of New Jersey.

Also on Tuesday, a coalition of civil-liberties groups asked President Trump to go one step further and commute the sentences of prisoners most vulnerable to coronavirus.

The coalition of both liberal and conservative groups included the American Civil Liberties Union, the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks, and the Justice Action Network.

There are more than 175,000 inmates in over 100 federal detention centers across the country. Those inmates fall under the authority of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

So far, three inmates and three staffers at federal facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus, the FBP has said.

Mr. Trump this week said his administration was weighing an executive order to free elderly, nonviolent inmates from federal prisons.

“We have been asked about that, and we’re going to take a look at it. It’s a bit of a problem,” Mr. Trump said about the potential order. “We’re talking about totally nonviolent prisoners, we are actually looking at that, yes.”

Some states and municipalities have already released nonviolent and elderly prisoners amid the pandemic. Los Angeles County released more than 600 inmates early, Cleveland let go over 200, and other localities are mulling similar measures.

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