The new law, introduced in the Senate, would require the Justice Department to establish guidelines for the federal Bureau of Prisons and the state correctional system to notify the families of those incarcerated if their loved one has a serious illness, a life-threatening illness. Threatened injury or if they die behind bars.
Law – Introduced by censors John Osoff, D-Ga., and John Kennedy, R-La. — is the latest move by members of Congress to oversee the troubled federal prison system, which has moved from crisis to crisis in recent years.
The introduction of the bill on Thursday comes two years after the Associated Press reported how the Federal Bureau of Prisons ignored its internal guidelines and failed to notify the families of inmates who were seriously ill with the coronavirus as the virus spread throughout the country. Was spread to federal prisons in America. And it comes on the heels of reports of similar conduct in state prisons in the US.
The Associated Press’s reporting on the federal prison system has revealed layer after layer of abuse, neglect and leadership missteps at the Bureau of Prisons – including rampant sexual abuse by workers, severe staff shortages, prisoner escapes and COVID-19. The pandemic has involved mishandling – leading directly to the agency’s director announcing his resignation earlier this year.
The bill, known as Family Notification of Death, Injury, or Sickness in Disease 2022, aims to ensure that families receive timely notifications if their family members are suffering from serious health complications.
In April 2020, the Associated Press reported that officials at FCI Terminal Island, a federal prison in Los Angeles, had deviated from policy and decided not to call the family of 59-year-old Michael Fleming, who was hospitalized and He was later put on ventilator. Being diagnosed with COVID-19. The only call his son had received was the day his father died, asking a prison pastor whether the body should be cremated and where the ashes should be sent.
Fleming learned the cause of his father’s death from an Associated Press reporter. Prison Bureau policy requires prison officials to “immediately” notify the families of prisoners with serious illnesses. The agency defended its decision at the time, saying it has “prudence when creating the information”.
“Not having the opportunity to say goodbye – it would have been priceless,” the younger Fleming said in an interview with the Associated Press in 2020. “We’ll never have that chance.”
Osoff’s office said similar cases have been reported in Georgia in local prisons and state prisons. In one instance, a woman collapsed in the Clayton County Jail and suffered injuries so severe that she had to be hospitalized. She died soon. Her family found out when the woman’s longtime boyfriend attempted to go to jail and was told he was no longer there. Another woman learned that her father had died in a Georgia state prison when she was returned a letter with a seal that read: “Return to sender: Prisoner dead.”
“Often, the families of those held in captivity never come to know about any serious illness, life-threatening injury or even death of a loved one behind bars. That’s why we introduced this bipartisan reform law,” Osoff, a Democrat, said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Kennedy, a Republican, said families “have a right to know about the well-being of their loved ones, and our bill will just make sure that happens.”
Osoff has repeatedly pushed for increased transparency in the federal prison system and is one of a growing group of lawmakers required to confirm the director of the Bureau of Prisons by the Senate.
The Georgia senator also launched a bipartisan working group of lawmakers to investigate situations within the Bureau of Prisons after Associated Press reporting that widespread corruption and abuse in federal prisons was uncovered. The group was launched with Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana.
Read more about Associated Press’s reporting on federal prisons at apnews.com and send confidential suggestions by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.