Skip to main content

tv   Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Testifies Before Senate Judiciary...  CSPAN  April 26, 2021 12:59pm-3:01pm EDT

12:59 pm
the way you can in a conventional car. chris: thank you very much, bob and randall. that is all the questions we are going to take. thank you for turning in. cato posts our forms a day or two later on our website, so if you want to go back and take a look at what we have said here and send it to your friends, you can do that. thank you for turning in. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> our live coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern with the president's address on c-span, online at, or listen live on the c-span radio >> -- how the federal prison system is managing the coronavirus pandemic and how they are testing and vaccinating staff and inmates.
1:00 pm
1:01 pm
>> today the senate is holding its first oversight hearing on the federal bureau of prison. director, thank you for joining us. to start today's hearing i would like to show a video that offers a look at that more than 252,000 people in the federal prison system. in 1993 at the age of 23, this
1:02 pm
man received a mandatory life sentence with no parole for a nonviolent offense. >> one has to ask they self, why did they give a young man at the age of 23, a life sentence? >> the united states has more people behind bars, 2.3 million, than any other country in the world. >> some of the biggest covid-19 outbreaks are in the prisons and jails that house more than 2 million. >> they leaving us here to die. >> it is only a matter of time for you all to get it. >> after delivering her baby while on a ventilator. >> they did not call me at all to let me know she was sick or
1:03 pm
they were sending her to the hospital. i've not heard from them at all. >> knowing this virus is out there, it is hard to imagine the leaders of egner rents that would have to take place for that to happen and just the lack of concern for humanity. >> i was not there to see them graduate from high school or see my grandkids. >> i know they had failed her. >> there are other people like me on the inside. they have children. they need to be home.
1:04 pm
>> i might just add that i know the gentleman that was on the video here. he was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 23 for a nonviolent drug offense. he was released because of the work of his committee and changes in the law that have taken place. thank you for joining me. he signed into law by president trump --he lost his job. he has reunited with his family. he is no threat to society. he is making a positive contribution. the men and women who go into these federal prisons and work there, their health and well-being is our concern, as
1:05 pm
much as, if not more than the inmates. i mentioned passing bipartisan laws to help inmates expertly return. i have held hearings on the conditions of confinement. some of the most memorable hearings were here in this moon. some were held for as long as a decade. i dealt with the issue of treating and individuals with mental illness over and over again. a personal friend of mine says without any challenge from any side whatsoever, he runs the largest mental health institution in the u.s. 70 prisoners are suffering from mental illness.
1:06 pm
we still have a lot of work to do. many feared that the nation's were headed for catastrophe. march of last year, i joined senator grassley in sending a bipartisan letter. we urged you to use your authority to swiftly transfer vulnerable inmates to home confinement. we sent that letter out of concern for the health and well-being of the inmates, as well as the americans working in our federal prisons. only three inmates and three staff members had tested positive for covid-19 at that time. the months following, tens of thousands of prisoners tested positive. at times the infection rate for the federal prison population has been nearly six times higher.
1:07 pm
two 130 incarcerated individuals have died from covid-19, nearly all of them with pre-existing conditions that made them obviously vulnerable. several were within months of being released and 55 died after their request for passionate release was denied. one notable death was noted in this video. andrea was eight months pregnant. officials sent her to the medical center and she's down with covid-19, giving birth to her premature daughter while on a ventilator. she died without ever getting a chance to hold her baby. thousands of staff members have contracted covid-19 and at least four have passed away. that includes a 40 two-year-old officer at the federal penitentiary at illinois.
1:08 pm
these were preventable deaths. the bureau has been far too rigid in approving compassionate release to reduce prison populations and prevent the spread of covid-19. unfortunately, this is part of a broader pattern. let me give you an example. the first step act required a risk and needs assessment. the tool is deeply flawed. the trump administration itself said it would result in stunning disparities. in december, the independent review committee released a report that found the bureau presence has failed to develop a fully integrated and comprehensive needs assessment system to diagnose the programming needs of individual inmate.
1:09 pm
it requires you to develop -- the first part was constructed by the senator on the prison reform side of the equation. providing prisoners with
1:10 pm
staff to work as congressional officers. the staffing crisis and bureau
1:11 pm
of prisons creates a large, clear and present danger. it has made the response to covid-19 pandemic nearly impossible. the americans working in our prison system are overworked, overextended and underserved wooded. incarcerated individuals i put at risk. our prison system at the federal level is failing. it is failing to fulfill its fundamental purpose, the rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals. most individuals will return to society and instead of preparing them, we are feeling them -- failing them. part of it includes the punitive practices, practices like administrative separation or solitary confinement. following my hearings, there
1:12 pm
were significant reductions in the use of solitary confinement, but i am troubled that the number of federal inmates in restricted housing increased significantly over the last four years. during the pandemic, the bureau has used extensive solitary confinement as a way of social distancing. you cannot separate people will 20 four hours a day without an impact to their mental health. this is an opportunity to get a clear counting on what is wrong in our federal prisons. we can start by vaccinating our inmates in a timely manner. the protection of all men and women who maintain the prisons. i am eager to hear about the plans. how will the build the reforms signed by president trump? we cannot keep wasting valuable taxpayer dollars to let people
1:13 pm
languish in prison. too many lives have been lost, too many spirits broken, too many families torn apart. >> before i start my statement, i want to make two points. one is to ask without objection for the record, a statement by the national association of attorneys to be included. you reminded me of something when he talked about the senator's involvement. we keep referring to our cooperation, but we have not forgotten. i am leaving somebody out, but we have to remember, when we were starting out with a small
1:14 pm
group of people, but when it finally passed, it passed 87-12. waited all the opposition come from? i make these points because too often neither one of us intends to leave other people. >> you should always mention those other people one time for sure. >> ok. let's go to the director. we welcome you and we thank you for being here. i look forward to your answers to these questions before us. they are very important. the committee last held an oversight hearing with the bureau of prisons in 2019. that was pre-covid.
1:15 pm
obviously, a lot has changed. it is about time that we dig in and discuss these issues. president trump signed the first step act, getting it passed was a very difficult effort, as i have already referred to. it required a buy in from nearly all members of congress, federal agencies, including your agents. we teamed up to get the first step act passed, two .5 years ago. i am thankful for the continued collaboration that i have with the chairman, working together. i consider the passage of the first step act as one of my good things that i have done since being a senator. because of the hard work and
1:16 pm
bipartisan nature, i am disheartened with lackluster implementation. it seems as though the justice department and bureau of prisons are implementing the first step act as if they want a to fail. i hope this is not true, but actions speak louder than words and the inaction on this, i think it paints a very difficult picture. i understand that the covid-19 pandemic hijacked many of the implementation efforts, but your agency must do better and follow the law without excuse. an example of halfhearted implementation is the prison programming. programming is critical for inmates. it prepares them to successfully
1:17 pm
reenter society and allows them to earn time credit without affecting programming. inmates will leave unequipped without this and possibly prone to reoffend. the agency has been slow to resume programs for prisoners, in light of covid-19 restrictions. the lack of programming is sending -- setting inmates up to fail. the justice department has not issued a complete needs assessment as required by the act. the risk and needs assessment system is critical in evaluating inmates, individual recidivism risk and tailoring appropriate programming to combat those risks. without these tools, the law is
1:18 pm
only partially fulfilled. another failure of implementation. lastly, a current justice department position on home confinement fails to comply with the spirit of the first step act. march 2020, attorney general barr responded to the calls by the senator and the chairman to increase the use of authorities in the first step act to place inmates in home confinement, to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading. earlier this year, the justice department released a statement saying that when the pandemic ends, many inmates were currently at home, in confinement, and they will be returned to the prison secure custody program. this means that almost 4000 people who have abided by the
1:19 pm
terms of home confinement will be removed from their homes and returned to the facility, obviously if they can stay where they are, it will save the taxpayers a lot of money and it would help those more prone to reoffend. it allows inmates to successfully reenter society as productive citizens. i look forward to our discussion on how you can we examine and prioritize this important legislation. we must also discuss the bureau of prisons response to the covid-19 pandemic as of april 14. many inmates and agency staff members died from covid. people are incarcerated to pay their debt to society, but they should not have to pay with their life.
1:20 pm
please use your position as director to make sure that not one more life is lost to the virus. i hope this allows us to look forward. i have been encouraged by your optimism for the future of the bureau of prisons. your job is difficult and often times thankless. it is critically important for the job to get done. the weight of success is on your shoulders, and your leadership will undoubtedly be critical. finally, i want to remind you that the bureau of prisons has responsibility to respond to all inquiries, including those from the minority, in a timely and complete manner.
1:21 pm
i sent you a letter in march 2020, and it has been more than a year with no response. that should be considered by everybody, including you, as unacceptable. i made the same point on behalf of my democratic colleagues. that responsibility falls to you. there needs to be -- i strongly urge you to send -- answer the letter. i look forward to working with you. i'm sorry i took so much time. >> no, that is ok. we will have a five-minute minute round of questions. michael began his career as a correctional officer in 1992. in july 2016 he was promoted to regional director and became the
1:22 pm
assistant director for the program division in 2018. the former attorney general appointed him in february 2020. please stand to be sworn in. >> do you affirm that the testimony that you will give will be the truth and nothing but the truth? let the director be aware that he --he answered in the affirmative. >> thank you and good morning. >> could you check your microphone and pull it a little closer? that is great. >> good morning. it is my privilege to speak today on behalf of the correction professionals who work day in and day out to enforce our mission.
1:23 pm
i want to make sure that these men and women are guided by correctional excellence and courage. i appreciate this opportunity to discuss the response to the pandemic, along with our efforts to provide the necessary programming to return to the community and their families. i have spent the majority of my career to this agency. i turned the bureau as a correctional officer and rose through the ranks to my position as director. i care deeply about our work. more importantly, our way forward. covid numbers have dropped significantly, even as inmate movement has resumed. we are taking the steps to normalize authorization -- operations. that includes inmate movement,
1:24 pm
food service and ramping up programming. all these efforts will have a positive effect on staff and inmate. as we have, we continue to assess and adjust our operations. to incorporate the lessons learned. enclosed coordination, we pursued an aggressive strategy to administer the vaccine. all staff have been offered the vaccine and we anticipate all inmates will be provided the opportunity to be vaccinated. the bureau has assisted in administering the vaccine to other personnel. we worked with the leadership to establish vaccine clinics to assist other law enforcement components receive the vaccination. more than 1100 law enforcement personnel were vaccinated. it has been an extraordinary
1:25 pm
year, but we continue to move forward and advance our priorities. there has been much discussion about the use of implementation and over time. we are increasing our staffing levels nationwide. we initiated a hiring campaign focused on external hiring to maximize levels. we are using marketing strategies and social media to reach potential candidates. in the last calendar year, we hired 3800 staff. we have ordered over 500 new staff to the agency. our use of incentives will provide clarity, transparency and have a significant impact on our staff moving forward. i am pleased to tell you that despite the pandemic, we are on
1:26 pm
track to meet the requirement for the first step act. many have been utilized to extend capacity in our female programs, drug treatment and vocational training. other innovations are underway to teach skills to inmates with the greatest needs. providing education for female offenders and mine arising our platform --modernizing our platform to implement tablets. we are committed to successful implementation of the first step act. finally, a key priority is our work with the government accountability office. in an effort to accelerate this work, i have established a task force to develop an action plan. our work will focus on strengthening the programs and initiatives to help prepare for
1:27 pm
success will return to the community. we are working on data that will enhance spending. to this end, we are engaging organizations to assist our operations. we have working tirelessly to carry out our mission. thank you for the opportunity to speak today and for your continued support to move these priorities forward. this concludes my statement. >> thank you. we wrote to you and to the attorney general to express serious concerns about the health and well-being of prison staff and inmate. the number of infected prisoners was reported to be three. that was at the earliest stages.
1:28 pm
it did not take a degree or donkey -- dr. fauci's resume to realize that our prisons were particularly vulnerable because of so many people gathered in such a limited space. we know what happened as a result. we came up with the first step act and other policies to establish compassionate release to reduce overcrowding and allow prisoners, who we perceived not to be a threat to society to have a chance to leave that setting. forbes magazine reported a man named jimmy monk. he was a young man and first-time offender. he was convicted of a nonviolent bank fraud offense. his term in prison was less than a year. he collapsed in a shower and died of covid-19 at a prison
1:29 pm
camp. he had no covid-19 symptoms, but his emails home and reports from inside the prison tell a much different story. he had multiple symptoms and received no medical attention. the words -- the guards ordered the inmates to leave him. he fell, hit his head and died on the floor. why was a man like jimmy monk, convicted of a nonviolent bank offense, with less than a year to serve, not placed in home confinement? were you given orders from above to restrict the number of opportunities that would be offered? >> no, chairman, i was not given any direction on that. i was issued two memorandums that directed us to consider under the cares act, everyone
1:30 pm
eligible for home confinement. i assure you that if that individual -- i will not speak about individual cases, but any inmate that is eligible under the criteria present presented to me by the attorney edgeneral, is on home confinemet as we speak. what prevents most cases is that they fall under one of the nondiscretionary criteria full-time if you have a primary event of violence, a six offense, or a detainer, said her deportation, you will not be placed on home confinement. as the statute was written, home confinement is a reentry program. as you are well aware, senator, six months, 12% of your sentence. we at this point in time released inmates under the cares act. we follow the criteria, senator. sen. durbin: no one is going to argue with the groups that you have excluded from consideration
1:31 pm
for compassionate release and home confinement. what is the remaining population that doesn't fit into those categories among the bureau of prison inmates? dir. carvajal: let me give you an example. when cares act passed, we ran a roster. cares act is a medical placement. at that day there was approximately 27,000 inmates eligible for confinement. when we apply the criteria, that number was reduced to 4000 just by those four criteria. so we had discretion to go beyond that. sen. durbin: you said 27,000 out of the total federal prison population. dir. carvajal: who had at least one covid risk factor, which is what the -- sen. durbin: new total prisons population w was
1:32 pm
150,0 -- was 150,000. dir. carvajal: we follow their criteria issued by the attorney general at the time. sen. durbin: you said there were 4000 eligible in the bureau of prisons. dir. carvajal: the 4000 was after applying the attorney general criteria. sen. durbin: i want to stick with the numbers for a minute. how many were released to home confinement? dir. carvajal: we transferred 24,000 inmates to home confinement. 4500 -- i use estimates because the numbers change every day. approximately 4500 of those today are on cares act home confinement. under specific cares act. sen. durbin: i don't know how large a group that is
1:33 pm
completely, they have been offered vaccines, fewer than one half have a six the test have accepted the invitation? dir. carvajal: the rate right now, the last number i got yesterday was a little bit over 51% have accepted. the one caveat there is that that does not include staff we are not aware of who received the vaccine on their own through their own care provider. we do know there are people who have done that. what we have offered the vaccine a proximally 51%. -- approximately 51%. sen. durbin: is there currently a mask mandate for the staff at these facilities? dir. carvajal: yes, there is, senator. there has been for some time. sen. durbin: what type of testing is offered to the staff? dir. carvajal: staff testing is available. we have 122 locations, we have a national contract laboratory where we can make it available
1:34 pm
for several types and methods there, but each location worked with our local public health service to establish testing sites. we do not test that on site. we don't have the resources to do that. sen. durbin: could you tell me the percent of prisoners who have been vaccinated? dir. carvajal: we have administered over 132,000 vaccines, vaccinations. the percentage this morning was a little over 40%, about 50,000 or so inmates. the numbers are changing. but as i stated in my opening remarks, our projections originally were august, for everybody to receive it. by mid-may, 100% of the inmates in our custody will be given the vaccine. keep in mind it is voluntary. the percentage that have taken it is 60%. sen. durbin: is there any testing before they are released?
1:35 pm
dir. carvajal: if they -- if we have symptoms or anything of that nature, we will provide the test upon release. otherwise, there is mandatory quarantine, unless they showed symptoms at which time they are placed in isolation, which is a separate procedure. sen. durbin: i'm going to ask one of the question, senator grassley. there was a lot of controversy in votes on the seven -- on the senate floor about sending stevens checks of $1400 to inmates in prison. this was a policy that was originated in the cares act that was drawn up on a bipartisan basis and signed into law by president trump, and there have been questions raised about what happens to that money for inmates. can you tell us what happens? dir. carvajal: absolutely, it goes to the inmate. we processed 22,000 checks for $19 million.
1:36 pm
we worked with the irs, department of justice, tax division, and the executive office of the united states attorneys to ensure that those inmates receiving those checks, that we work through that and they receive those checks. like with anything come if something occurs where all they need to do is tell us, we don't know who is entitled to a check, but we have ensured that 22,000 times come inmates in our system have received those checks for a total of $19 million. sen. durbin: out of 150,000 inmates? dir. carvajal: i'm not sure who is entitled to them. sen. durbin: i'm just asking you. dir. carvajal: out of her current population of 125,000. sen. durbin: isn't it true that an account that exceeds $450 during a six-month period, including stimulus checks, for example, is assessed the bureau of prisons to pay prisoner deaths, including restitution to crime victims and fines? dir. carvajal: part of our
1:37 pm
policy and part of reentry is teaching responsibility. so if an inmate has child-support or owes a fine or restitution, that is part of his reentry plan, to pay those debts. my knowledge, we don't assess that. we make sure they participate in the program to pay restitution and things like that, so there are those checks and balances, but we are not taking money from an inmate. there is a record of this. everything is screened and gone through the policy as appropriate. sen. durbin: i want to clarify -- if i'm a prisoner and i have received a $1400 stimulus check, it's my understanding that $950 of that could be assessed to pay any restitution or fines that i have been ordered by the court to pay. is that true? dir. carvajal: i believe so, senator. i'm not entirely sure about the policy, i haven't reviewed that policy, lately, but i'm almost certain that if they have a financial responsibility, part
1:38 pm
of their reentry plan, getting them ready to return to society -- 95% will -- is to be responsible and make payments. sen. durbin: and child-support is the same type of responsibility? dir. carvajal: anything where they have obligations, that is a part of being a responsible citizen and paying their bills. sen. durbin: senator grassley? sen. grassley: you said in your statement that it is a priority for you and the current administration, and i hope it is. but i kind of would like to know how we are supposed to know that. is there some measurable goal that you're trying to meet that we can say six-month from now or a year from now you are doing what you said you were going to do? dir. carvajal: that's a great question, senator. i wrote a lot of notes through both of your opening statements, and i hope i have the opportunity to answer these questions. i'm not sure where you get all your information, but i'm glad
1:39 pm
you called me here to be able to enter this. we are on track to meet the first step act. even through covid last year, which is a whole other issue as you well know, we had over 50,000 inmates enrolled in some type of program. 21,000, maybe 25,000 completed a program. those programs are worth earning time credits, which is what the first step act is about. i'm not sure who is giving your information. could it have been more? absolutely. but i don't know why someone would think we would want something that is part of our mission, reentry into society is half of the mission of the bureau of prisons. the first one is the obvious, keeping people safe. yes, we want the first step act to be successful, and i appreciate you letting me clarify that. sen. grassley: do me a favor. if you went through my statement and told me what's wrong -- don't do it now -- but if you could do that, i am disappointed
1:40 pm
in the progress that the justice department and bureau of prisons have made. we are acutely aware of the impact that covid-19 has had on reasons, but at this point, over one year when president trump declared covid as a national emergency, i don't think that national emergency be gas can be used as a scapegoat. being accountable and moving forward is necessary. i mentioned in my opening statement that the justice department and the bureau of prisons has failed in this effort. for it being the most significant criminal justice law -- if that's true what i'm saying. even if it is not true, at certain points, perception becomes a reality. so if it is more unreasonable
1:41 pm
her perception, how can you assure me and those affected by the first step act that the implementation in this brief is incorrectly held? dir. carvajal: first off, you mentioned the risk and needs assessment. that was implemented in january of 2020 right before covid. i don't know why someone would think we don't have a risk and needs assessment. it's public knowledge of the irc has acknowledged it and we have worked with outside stakeholders to relate this. -- to create this. it was done by independent researchers. it has been vetted, is under reassessment now. we have a needs assessment. we've always done it informally. our process has been formalized now. we have identified with the cooperation of outside stakeholders, including correctional experts from other agencies, we established needs
1:42 pm
assessment. 13 needs were identified. when we go through the risk process, we identify those needs and apply one of over 80 evidence-based recidivism producing programs, that are worth time credits. i'm a bit confused about whether people don't believe we are doing this. i believe we are doing it. sen. grassley: now i want to go to home confinement. it has been a very vital tool to decrease the prison population during covid, and it is successful in monitoring inmates . of the 24,000 inmates currently on home confinement, 151 have violated the terms of their release. and only three have been arrested for new crimes. this highlights how effective home confinement can be. given this, i'm concerned that the justice department's memo
1:43 pm
concluding that the bureau of prisons would have to recall some nonviolent inmates currently on home confinement back into prison facilities. once the pandemic period ends. this policy would result in almost 4000 inmates on home confinement being forced to return to a facility to complete their census. the first step act's goals are to reduce recidivism while ensuring public safety, all while making sure to not burden the taxpayer. this seems -- the policy that is referred to from doj seems to counter the first step act goals. so, do you or do you not agree with that? besides, the legal reasons outlined in the justice department memo, is there any policy reason that inmates in home confinement under the first step act or the cares act should be returned to the bureau of
1:44 pm
prisons facilities if they are not -- if they have not violated the terms of their release or commit a new crime. dir. carvajal: great question, senator. the portion i will start with is whether or not we are bringing them back. i would presume that the doj issue back in november was the fact that the statute -- the cares act did not change the statute. the statute as written allows for 10%, 10% of their time or six months, up to 12 month in the community. cares act placement extended that. this program was not designed for people to be out that long. we would need to change the statute have the authority to adjust it because that is what we're doing. the president recently extended the national emergency, so there's no rush to bring these back.
1:45 pm
we are covered by the cares act, so we are not advocating one way either way. we are planning. we were asked, can we accommodate, if we need to bring these back because they are still in our custody. yes, we can. you're correct, your numbers on the 151-three, the new crimes, only one of those was violent. i don't know the details, but the rest of those is, we would screen those. i want to make something clear, senator, that for anyone to believe that we arbitrarily want to disrupt the lives of these people after we put them out, if they have successfully been out there, we are going to use good judgment and common sense and work within the law to make sure we are placing them appropriately. i simply ask that either the statute is changed so we can follow the law, because as written we would not be within the law, or that we work with the doj as we do now and that people understand that we are
1:46 pm
doing things within the parameters we are given. we are not doing them out of like or dislike or anything. we want this to be successful. it is the entire mission of the bureau of prisons to return to people -- return people to society. i don't know why people believe we are somehow against this. i will say we do it responsibly. part of the direction the attorney general stated was that we consider the victim, that we consider public safety, and we take that very seriously. when we look at this criteria and we make these decisions, we make sure we are not causing a burden to the public either. public safety is part of our -- we are a law enforcement agency. i appreciate the opportunity to clear that up because i don't want somebody to believe that the bureau of prisons somehow doesn't want to let people out. that's not accurate. we want to look about under our authority within the law. sen. durbin: senator grassley, let's you and i work on that
1:47 pm
last question together. i think it is an important one. and that maybe a change to the statute is necessary. sen. grassley: my question would imply i want to work with you. sen. durbin: i look forward to it. senator feinstein? sen. feinstein: thank you very much, mr. chairman. i spent a lot of my past in prisons, particularly state prisons come under the california indeterminate sentencing law, sentencing and parole in women convicted of felonies in california. so i'm very familiar with the atmosphere of these institutions. i wanted to just ask you, a recent study from the new york times indicates that at least 39% of prisoners in federal facilities have been infected with covid. more than four times the general rate of infection in the
1:48 pm
country. the situation, i believe, seems to be worse at the terminal island facility in california, where the virus, i am told, has infected over 70% of the facility's population and killed 10 inmates. according to a january report by the department of justice's ig staff at terminal island, ig staff, terminal island struggled to enforce social distancing and may not have been quarantining inmates before moving them to alternative housing. the ig also found that roughly 60% of facility staff said they did not have enough personal protective equipment. in light of this, director, what efforts have been made to improve adherence to covid-19 protocols, specifically at
1:49 pm
terminal island? dir. carvajal: thank you, senator. terminal island was one of our earliest big outbreaks. what you said is absolutely correct, we had a widespread transmission. our ability to social distance in a prison, we learned early on, prisons are not made for that. they are made for the complete opposite. throw on top of that terminal island has open dorm and open bays, and it adds to the problem. it was at capacity or over. i don't remember the exact numbers at the time. sen. feinstein: so how are you handling that open wards, open bed situation. dir. carvajal: that's where i'm going, senator. we reduce the population. open bay, open dorm is not conducive for containment, so we lowered the population and spread those inmates out. at the time, terminal island was something where we tried something new. we acquired tents.
1:50 pm
in a couple of locations we partnering with the coast guard and set up temporary housing. in a prison, the last thing we want to do is put somebody in a tent outside within a perimeter, but we did that because we saw the effect that social distancing had, so we spread people out. we have used nontraditional areas to house people. we converted factories in some cases, rooms, anywhere we can spread people out, we did that early on. terminal island was one of those cases -- the oig went in there. we certainly appreciate working with them. we work hand-in-hand with them and they reviewed many of our facilities. one of the things i will point out -- because that was so early on, everybody was dealing with this. we learned a lot of lessons through covid. i wish i knew then what i know now about it, but we didn't know it at the time. covid was new to everybody. we have a history of dealing with pandemics at the bureau of
1:51 pm
federal prisons. covid was different. it is a shame the contagious, happened very quickly. testing resources were not available. they are now, they were not at the time. you cannot just empty a prison overnight. it doesn't work that way. we have different challenges within a correctional environment. always keep safety and security first. i appreciate the opportunity to clear that up. sen. feinstein: well, thank you. in response to a question for the record, i submitted after you testified before this committee last june, you indicated that the bureau had reviewed 40,000 inmates for potential home confinement at that time. less than one third of the total number of inmates in the bureau custody. director, as of today, approximately how many inmates has the bureau reviewed for placement in home confinement? dir. carvajal: senator, i wish i
1:52 pm
k give you a solid answer because the numbers have changed. we have reviewed everyone who is eligible and has a covid risk factor, the cares act actually, the way it was written, allowed us to review 100% of the inmates, but when you apply those hard criteria, the obvious ones we are not going to bend on, lowering the number 220 7000 -- if i had to make a guest because our numbers have shifted -- dir. carvajal: a percentage -- sen. feinstein: a percentage would be fine. dir. carvajal: i would say 50% to 75%. sen. feinstein: have what? dir. carvajal: has been reviewed. sen. feinstein: do you have the placement facility, the placement numbers? dir. carvajal: i'm not sure i'm understanding your question, senator. sen. feinstein: well, you indicated that the bureau had reviewed 40,000 inmates for potential home confinement. what portion of the 40,000, a
1:53 pm
percent will do, have been home confined. dir. carvajal: i apologize, i wasn't tracking with you. we have placed 27,000 in home confinement. sen. feinstein: out of the 40,000? dir. carvajal: i don't know if it was specific out of the 40,000. we have placed over 24,000 in home confinement. sen. feinstein: let me ask one other question. it's my understanding that there is an effort to ensure that every inmate in bop custody receives the individualized review required by the attorney general's guidance. my question is, when will that be completed, and may we see it? dir. carvajal: the guides -- if i believe what you're talking about the directions you would take to individually review every case eligible for home confinement in a totality of circumstances, applying those
1:54 pm
criteria, that is exactly what we do. sen. feinstein: may we see the results? dir. carvajal: i don't know how i would do that, senator, but i will certainly talk to my staff. i just don't know how we would accomplish that, but i will get back with you. i will follow-up with you. i just need to get back with my staff about how we will present that. sen. feinstein: i will write you a former -- a formal letter asking you the specifics. but i believe we are entitled to know this. dir. carvajal: absolutely. sen. durbin: senator cornyn? sen. cornyn: you and i may be only two or three people on the committee that nowhere that part of texas is. thank you for what you do day in and day out. i cannot imagine the challenges that confront the director of the bureau of prisons, and i
1:55 pm
want you to let us know what we can do to help you accomplish your goal. you made the point that you want to be able to release inmates when they are no longer a threat after they have served their time. i think the perception is just the opposite, and i'm glad you clarified that. but in texas come as you know, we made a major effort that criminal justice reform focused on people who would take advantage of the opportunity to deal with their addictions, learn a skill, and he prepared for life outside of prison, and it was that state aced experiment that was duplicated that -- that state-based experiment that was duplicated around the country. i want to make sure my partner is recognized for his contribution, too. by its name, we did not expect to stop with the first step, and
1:56 pm
we are interested in your advice and counsel on what the next step should be. for example, i know the experience in texas, the state system, was the legislature continued to look at follow on services that might be available, because i can only imagine once an incarcerated person is let out of jail and they go to their neighborhood, subject to a lot of the same influences they had in the first place, and it is hard, it is tough. i admire people who can continue their rehabilitation, and i want to be -- and want to be constructive members of society. i will just ask you that question for the record and ask maybe you and your staff to let us know what additional services congress should authorize in order to make sure that this recidivism reduction program is successful, once people get on the street.
1:57 pm
sexual assault in prisons is something that congress has addressed previously, and what i am interested in is, do you know how many prisoners in the federal prison system currently have access to services like telephone hotline services if they have been a victim of sexual assault? dir. carvajal: yes, senator, all of them. we make sure that we speak about that. preferably it starts with admission and orientation. 100% of our facilities are compliant. they are reviewed often. we make sure inmates have the number that is posted, electronic bulletin boards, regular bulletin boards, and we certainly encourage them to come forward, whether it is through staff or by use of the hotline, to report things of that nature. sen. cornyn: i want to make sure
1:58 pm
that every victim of sexual assault in our prisons has access to services and that hotline number, so i want to follow up with you and see where we are. i'm sure wherever we are we can always be better. senator durbin asked about stimulus checks for inmates. there were two votes on the floor of the senate, one in 2021 , and senator cotton and senator cruz offered amendments that would prohibit the issue of stimulus checks to prisoners. that failed by a vote of 49-50. there was another one by senator cruz and senator cotton, that would prohibit any individual incarcerated in a federal or state prison from getting state stimulus -- from getting seamless checks.
1:59 pm
that also failed by 49-50. initially congress was silent as to whether prison inmates would receive those checks. the irs took the position that they were not eligible, and then there was a class-action lawsuit filed which said that congress had to -- that the irs had to comply, because there was no explicit prohibition. did i recite the history of your experience correctly? in other words, originally congress was silent, then the irs took the position that they were not entitled, then there was a class-action lawsuit that said congress was silent, and they had to be provided. is that correct? dir. carvajal: senator, i don't know about the specifics. i doi know there was a class acn lawsuit. the bureau is not one of the
2:00 pm
defendants. as with everything we do, we follow the law of legislation and do what is within our authorities. we understand who made the decision, how it was made. we followed it. those who receive those checks working through the irs, doj, and other appropriate offices. that is what i do know. sen. cornyn: if i may offer one follow-up question, you have been asked about prison overcrowding, particularly in the face of a pandemic, and i would note that at the beginning of the biden administration, there was an executive order issued by the administration prohibiting the use of private prison facilities. i believe now there is roughly 14,000 federal inmates in those private facilities. does that executive order make it easier or harder for you to deal with the overcrowding issues that were raised to you earlier?
2:01 pm
where are you going to put these folks? >> thank you, senator. i know there has been much talk about that. we were working on -- we continue to assess our population. it has been trending downward long before last year come along before the election of this administration. we determined we didn't need a certain amount of beds and cut trending downwards. we allowed two or three contracts to expire. there are 13,000 beds. we don't need to thousand of them. those are expiring. we have 55,000 empty beds in our system right now. now. so we have ample bed space. part of my sporningt as you know, senator, is being myra's possibility as being a good steward of taxpayer money. i am not a political appointee.
2:02 pm
i do my job and make sure we appropriately spent taxpayer money. privates for years, because we did rely on them when our count was at 220,000. we simply don't need the beds right now. that may change in the future. right now, the bureau of prisons doesn't need those beds t. has nothing to do with quality or anything else. we simply don't need the beds. >> that's unrelated to the crowding issues that were raised by the chairman and others. >> crowding is down 7% system wide. part of that was because we did release inmates, again, through the cares act. 24,000 are on home confinement, and that doesn't count normal releases. so we have ample bed space. at one point in time, we were at 220,000. we absolutely needed help from the privates or people may have been in an unsafe environment. at this point in time, today, our population is 125,000. and we have 55,000, approximately 55,000 open beds.
2:03 pm
it's not an issue right now. best way for notice explain it. >> senator cornyn, i'd like to clarify. i think that director made this point, too. it's just that it's the nature of the prison system that social distancing is a challenge for them. so i wasn't talking about crowding per se, but in context of covid-19 as the director has mentioned, the total population has gone down dramatically. >> i thought when we were talking about crowding or social distancing, those were related issues, but i appreciate your answer, thank you. >> thank you very much, senator booker? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, director, thank you very much for being here. i really appreciate it. i first want to express my sympathies. i know we lost correctional officers to covid. i see these as line of duty deaths. did i a wonderful bill to make sure that law enforcement
2:04 pm
officers who die of covid get the benefits for their families that they should. there's a presumption of it being a line of duty death. but i know that your job in normal times, the office under your command, it's an incredibly difficult, challenging job they put themselves at risk in service of safety. so i just want to express my gratitude and sympathies for the loss for the officers that were lost during this crisis. >> the risk assessment tool called pattern that was designed under the first step act for good time credits, it's been used for home confinement and compassionate relief during this pandemic. however, i've got serious concerns about the tool that we've expressed to your office. because the perception of bias that's built into the analysis, and it shows sort of a stunning bias in terms of the number of
2:05 pm
african-americans versus number of whites who seem to qualify under that pattern tool. and then i'm wondering will they continue to use the risk assessment tool for purposes of home confinement and compassionate release for covid-19? >> ok, thank you, senator. two thirnings first off, i mentioned this earlier, and i think it's important to point out. we did not develop pattern. we assist in the development throughout researchers and scientists, outside stake horlede input, and this tool showed across race, gender, and ethnicity, it had the highest level of productivity, and that's why it was chosen. i did not choose t. it's the department's tool. it's being reassessed now. there were some adjustments made in january of 2020, senator, to your point. there was a perceived or actual bias against people of oscar, so they removed two pieces of that.
2:06 pm
it was the age of first arrest and age of first conviction and voluntary surrender. that was done to remove that bias or perceived bias, and it also created more transparency and fairness. again, i did not select that tool. we are the end ires. but it goes under review every year. there's independent researchers right now. the national institute of justice actually does the contracting for. that it's being assessed now, so i don't have anything to do with the asements. we are the end user that have tool. we will continue to use it as long as we're directed to use it. >> and i know that you all are consulted and the d.o.j. works with you as a development to perfect that tool, so your continued engagement on its fairness -- >> our staff are involved in it, senator. the same thing with the needs assessment. we worked on the needs assessment with outside consultants, outside stakeholders, some of which were leadership of other correctional agencies, so that we get a good input of subject matter experts, and we
2:07 pm
developed a needs tool. we didn't develop it in a vacuum. we do get input from the outside. i was rather shocked at the i.r.c.'s report critiquing the tool. when they had view and input of it also. >> again, it still seems to be imperfect, and i'm hoping you guys have been very commune caverb of my office. i'm hoping you'll take input as we try to get something that is more fair. >> i understand, senator, everything can always be improved. and we certainly understand that. >> i appreciate this. it's been really instructive. can we get back to the issue of solitary confinement in the age of covid. for many months, we've been looking at the covid-19 numbers, and they were said to be low because of the action plan. and the agency was taking steps in that context. but we just believed that that is actually not the case, and
2:08 pm
the courts were burying -- were buying the argument, but denying compassionate release that people should have gotten. and, again, to give you an example, there's a man named mr. trejio who was incarcerated whose motion for compassionate release was denied. his underlying health conditions were pretty significant. severe coronary heart disease, heart failure, chronic, severe valve regurgetafplgse i'm trying to say these things like i'm a doctor, but i'm not. multivessel coronary art disease, chronic heart failure. and more. he later was put into quarantine because of his risk of contracting covid-19, but fort dix's quarn tee process appeared to have spread rather than contained the virus, and tragically, mr. trudge i will owe died. and so i just -- this is to me
2:09 pm
a matter of not just justice, but it's a matter of compassion and empathy to keep people that are so flail their condition, their risk to the population is still low. so i just want to continue to be engaged with you on these concerns. we know in new jersey the virus, unfortunately, is still stubbornly persistent. and i'd like to maybe end with just a question. what steps are you trying to take to continue to ensure that c.d.c. guidance is being used to prevent more unnecessary deaths, and not putting people in solitary confinement, but really trying to lean into the idea of that word compassion, compassionate release. so i know that this is -- we need to move on to my colleagues, but i'm hoping that
2:10 pm
you can give me a brief answer now, but maybe we can continue to have dialogue between my office and yours. >> absolutely, senator. two things i want to clarify foufment appreciate opportunity. number one, i can't talk about certain cases, but i will till narcotics case such as the one you described, the compassionate part of all that is the emotion. i certainly understand. all of those deaths weigh on me. if we did not recommend that individual, there was a very good reason. i'll give you an example. they may have had a detainer or something of that nature, which is hard criteria. so i have to follow the rules, senator. sometimes people don't understand, we're not not letting someone out because we don't want to or don't support it. we're following the rules as given to us. i appreciate the ability to clear that up. fort dix, i oversaw fort dix as regional director, and at one point there was 5,000 inmates
2:11 pm
there. it was single largest facility in our agency, one facility, two separate, east and wevpls it's down about 50% capacity. i did that based on my working knowledge of that plasmse our goal is to get it down because of the points you said. we learned early on you can't social distance in an area like that, open barracks. that's one of the things we d. the other thing i'll point out is from day one, we get much criticism about how we respond to covid, but we have been in lock step with c.d.c. guidance all along, and when it changes, it's difficult for us in a correctional environment sometimes to apply that guidance, but we do our best to do it. our medical director of the agency speaks to c.d.c. on a weekly basis, sometimes daily basis. so i want to stress that to you that everything that we do is in lock step with c.d.c. in fact, we had input on the guidance that c.d.c. put out for correctional and detention centers. a lot that have came with our collaborative efforts with them. so i don't want anybody to
2:12 pm
think that we're making this stuff up as we go along. we are consulting with the experts out there in making adjustments. it's very hard to apply sometimes in a correctional environment, because sanduret safety is always going to be first and foremost of everything. so thank you for allowing notice answer that. >> sir, again, the communication is really critical, and i appreciate that you have those open lines. thank you. >> senator lee? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, director carvajal and thank you for being here today. you testified a month or so ago in front of an subcommittee, and in your testimony, when talking about private facilities, you described, as i understand, it the facilities as safe, indicating that they do rely on them. and that they meet your safety standards. i was there for a little bit surprised when the executive order came out, and the executive order relied in part on a conclusion that private contractors "consistently
2:13 pm
unperform." biased your testimony. it sounds like that hasn't been your experience. can you tell me, is there an inconsistency between that finding that they consistently underperform and your experience with them? >> yerks senator, again, i want to express the point for the obvious reasons that i'm not a political appointee. >> i understand. >> i'm a careerist. so some of this, i have to be careful how i say, it because i don't want to you think that i'm playing -- i'm going to tell you based on my experience. we have partnered with the privets, the determination to quit using them was made well before even the election, much lells the executive order came out. but to your point, they are held to a statement of work and a contract. if they were underperforming, we wouldn't utilize them. so that's the best way for me to say that. i'll follow up with one piece. we do have a contract to your example that we issued an issue
2:14 pm
of notice of violation recently, because they were not performing to standard. there's a process for that. i won't get into the facility or why, but that's the first time i know of that our agency has done that. >> you're talking about one contractor, gotcha. >> but my point, is it can happen like anything else. they're either performing or not. we hold them to the standard. >> that makes sense. you talked a few minutes ago about other aspects of the order. what about the part dealing with the u.s. marshal's service. as i understand it, u.s. marshal service relies heavily on private facilities. particularly for pretrial defendants, and that at any given time you might have as many as 62,000 individuals who have got ton able to make their court dates in federal courts throughout the country. only 14 of those defendants are housed in u.s. bureau of prisons facilities, meaning that the other six, the other 86% have got ton housed
2:15 pm
somewhere else. given the demashe light of that order, what will happen? what will happen to that? do they have the resources to deal with those 62,000 u.s. marshal service detainees? >> no, i'll certainly defer to the united states marshal service to follow up with that. i don't think it would be appropriate for notice speak with their operation. but as i stated earlier, at this point in time, our private facilities hold about 11,000 inmates. we have approximately 55,000 beds available at this point. but yes, we take inmates from the marshal service. we work with them all the time. and part our mission, which we've been security nidse early on as a movement, the judiciary did not stop. so as you stated, the marshals take those inmates, and they eventually come to us. >> right.
2:16 pm
those 55,000 spaces aren't necessarily where you need them. >> exactly. . >> sinlts biden administration has begun, illegal border crossings have reached their highest level in about 15 years. it amounts to 171,000 people crossing over the border in march. and that's just the ones that border patrol has apprehended. it's not just salt lake city crossing the southern border in one single month. salt lake city is just under 200,000 people f. private facilities are no longer available for use to detain criminal aliens, what's the likely effect that this massive increase of potential immigrant detainees, what impact is that going to have on b.o.p.? >> senator, obviously the
2:17 pm
department of homeland sanduret immigration and custom service, i.c.e., they oversee that process. we do hold non-u.s. sit zernings it's about 17% of our population tosmede births 25,000. we work collaboratively with i.c.e. for hearings, and they make the final determination whether someone's going to be deported or not. and we work with them. we don't house inmates traditionally. we have under emergencies for i.c.e., but we do work with the marshal service, so i would defer any questions about how that impacts to the department of homeland security. >> i've got a couple more questions. may i finish those? thank you. i want to talk about the first step back, something that senator durbin and i spent a great deal of time working on over the years and are proud to have passed. that bill included, among other things, significant programming for inmates. what specific programs and initiatives have you been able to implement under the first
2:18 pm
step act for prisoner development rehabilitation? >> yeah, senator, we have over 80 evidence-based recidivism producing programs or productive activities as we call them. we range everything from g.e.d. and literacy to secondary education, vocational training is something big we're trying to expand. career technical education, you know, part of the whole reentry process is giving them the skills to apply when they get out. so all of the trades, that's a focus to try to teach these people a skill, so when they get out, they'll be prisket. we work on expanding our mental health treatment forks as i mentioned, earlier, life skills. they may need to learn basic life skills. one of the things we learned through covid like the rest of the world is the use of virtual. well, prisons aren't built for that, so we're working on upgrading our infrastructure so we can implement virtual programming to inmates so that we don't deal with this, you
2:19 pm
know, need to social distance. they can do it from the safety of their cells. so we're looking at implementing tablets, things of that nature. but all of those come with security issues that we have to overcome. you know, infrastructure issues that we have to overcome, things like that. the biggest focus right now, senator, is hiring staff to deliver the program so that we can expand the capacity so that more inmates have the opportunity to earn those time credits. >> finally, during covid, lot of americans have seen their religious liberties impaired in one way or another. fortunately for a prison population, there are specific protections in this, as you know. so the government can't substantially burden a prisoner's free exercise of religion without satisfying strict scrutiny. what steps have you been taking to ensure other challenges you
2:20 pm
face that incarcerated individuals are still able to exercise their religious liberties? >> very important to the b.y.u. of prisons, and that's one of the things that along with our mental health treatment and our medical treatment, we continue that vital, critical. although they've been modified in some way, somewhere always been varblingse even through covid. we've worked on getting volunteers back in here lately towards the end, now that people are receiving vaccinations and stuff. but obviously early on, it did impact the ability. we rely heavily on volunteers. we have over 11,000 volunteers. the majority of them are religious base that had come in. we serve over 30 faith groups. there's all types of opportunity. that doesn't count the individuals who choose to practice whatever face they believe. that has always been available during covid, although it has been modified at times. we've had to make ajumentses like everything else, but it
2:21 pm
was never not available. >> thank you. >> senator klobuchar. >> thank you for holding this important hearing. senator lee, thank you for your work on this bill. i know i've been at meeting scombu senator durbin and senator booker with various administrations where you helped to get the first step act passed, and i want to thank you for that. i know i've had a few questions about the director, but you talked about what you're doing to implement that bill. and i've done a lot of work with drug treatment programs. we have a lot of good treatment programs in my state, and according to the independent review committee that was actually established as part of the first step act, they've not taken sufficient steps, including prior to the pandemic, so i understand the
2:22 pm
problems with the pandemic, everyone does. but to provide sufficient access to programming. do you agree with the assessment? do you think there's something wrong with the assessment? >> yes, i do, senator. i can't speak for anything that happened before i was in the process, but from my time forward, i assume this position about a month before covid hit. i would have to follow up fryar that, but i will tell you that even through covid we had over 25,000 inmates complete a program for time credits. the i.r.c. works with us. i'm familiar with the report and the recommendations they made. but we worked with them to do this. we've expanded our programs. we had over 41,000 inmates participate in drug treatment or education last year of some type in the bureau of prisons. i'm not sure what it is that we haven't provided. i would need specifics. >> ok, i think it's in the report that they talked about, that there wasn't sufficient act sesms
2:23 pm
>> they talked about capacity. we've expanded capacity. over 41,000 inmates participated in a drug treatment or education program like yeerks even through covid. >> so what you're saying is you acted on those assessments? >> yes. from the time i've been in here, we've been taking action to meet the first step act. >> ok, let's go to the focus on the pandemic and what's happened there. the fight against the pandemic as we know continues to put more incarcerated people at risk. the b.o.p. announced the death of eight more incarcerated people in 2021, in addition to the vaccine, testing is one of the best ways to control the spread of the virus, but according to a report by the pandemic response accountability committee, b.o.t. only tested 30% of the inmate population between february and august of 2020. since august 2020, it's a
2:24 pm
percentage of people in facilities who have been tested increased, and do you have that number? >> senator, i know that we have conducted over half a million tests in the bureau of prisons of over 150,000 inmates at least. that may include testing some twice, things like. that i follow the guidance of my experts, my medical director. early on, it's probably accurate. testing resources were not available, senator. we would have been applying them. >> they're more available now. but i want to look at the percentage, and it's ok if you don't have that, if you could give it to me later. that would be great, to go from 30% to where you are since august 2020. last jurengs i asked about testing of asymptomatic inmates, which b.o.t. said it was doing in consultation with c.d.c. guidelines. do you know what percentage, again, you can put it in later, what percentage of b.o.p. tests
2:25 pm
have been administered to asymptomatic inmates. >> i don't know the number of percentage, but our strategy with the testing is in lock step with c.d.c., and correctional systems. now, i know that has changed recently, and we're working on that now. my medical director is actually working on a plan going forward of how we would apply testing, if the guidance changes. but we've been following the guidance. at one point asymptom mack testing in our environment was not recommended, because it wasn't a good use of resources. >> yeah, i know this way back, because when my husband had covid, and i didn't get a test. but things have changed over time. because that was over a year ago. so you testified today when senator durbin was asking questions that while all b.o.p. staff have been offered this, 51% of staff have been
2:26 pm
vaccinated. >> why do you think that half of them have accepted the vaccine when offered, and that half have not, what steps are you taking to combated the vaccine hesitancy? >> senator, we have done a campaign effort obviously encouraging it. normally as a looked i don't do anything before my staff other than when i want to show them by example. this is one of those cases where i myself was vaccinated to encourage others that it was safe. i've done videos. we collaborated with a national union at the local level and national level to encourage our staff to be vaccinated. it's a personal choice. we respect that. we don't mandate it. but it is in line with firefighters, police, critical infrastructure. i've seen everything. >> i know, but 95% of mayo clinic doctors have been vaccinated because they don't to want give it to their patients. i keep thinking of the inmates that are there that, you know, obviously incarcerated, but
2:27 pm
they can't choose whether or not the people that are close to them have decided to have the vaccine. so i guess it's something for to us deal with on another day. but that to me, you have literally people who are incarcerated, and then you have people that have chosen not to get a vaccine, and then i look at the mayo clinic numbers, or 95%, so the people that go to mayo clinic, a place i'm very proud of in my state, those patients don't have that same risk as the people that are incarcerated. so my last question is about the last may i isn't a letter expressing concern about how the b.o.p. is assessing eligibility for home confinement, particularly after we learned about andrea, who died in federal custody four weeks after giving birth while a satellite and radar, and after testing positive for the coronavirus. we know that weeks later paul manafort and michael cohen were transferred to home confinement . i still don't have the data that i think i need to release
2:28 pm
information on how cases are prioritized and the demographic data of the people who were transferred, can we get that? what percentage of transfers were denied because of an inmate's pattern score? the b.o.p.'s risk assessment tool, which senator booker mentioned, numerous civil rights and legal organizations have warned is likely to perpetuate racial disparity and decision making. can we get the percentage releases so we could look at them? >> yes, senator, i will speak with my staff and follow up on that. i'd like to, since you mentiond the score, we recently expanded the criteria, working with the department. we are now -- we have now given the authority to consider low pattern scores going forward, where before, it was a minimum pattern score was the criteria. working with the department of justice, we have increase that had to consider low pattern scores now. we are working to get as many people appropriately out.
2:29 pm
again, within the criteria we're given, senator. >> all right, thank you. >> senator cruz? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. carvajal, welcome. thank you for your service. what currently is happening to bureau prison inmates who are criminal aliens? when they're tirms of incarceration expire. are they being transferred immediately to d.h.s. for deportation? >> senator, we have immigration hearing programs at 24 of our sites. we work in conjunction with i.c.e. i.c.e. makes the final determination whether they're going to be deported or not. so we have a process that works with that. about 17% of our population are non-u.s. citizens. i.c.e., they determine whether or not they're going to be deported. typically they make that determination. there's a time frame. they come and pick them up, and then they're released to them. >> so what percent of criminal
2:30 pm
aliens are being deported after they've served their prison time? >> senator, i don't know that information. have you lived to ask the department of homeland security. i don't track that system, because it doesn't -- it's not within my authority. >> the bureau of prisons doesn't keep records as to whether inmates are being released into the american population or being released into the custody of i.c.e.? >> yes, we do, senator. i just don't have that number in front of me. we can follow up with that on you. >> ok, i would ask to you please provide those data. what is the bureau of prisons do with inmates to minimize the crisk of covid transmission? -- to minimize the crisk of covid transmission? >> like we do, we educate them, enforce rules, provide face coverings, p.p.e. we try to spread our population out as appropriate as we can. but things in place. barriers. the same thing that i would say
2:31 pm
everyone else is doing to minimize the risk. >> do you also have reasonable social distancing so that inmates are not crowded in too closely in with each other? >> that was a challenge, because prisons are made to contain people closely. so that has been one of our biggest struggles, but we are doing the best we can at this point and with a reduced population, we've been able to do that. we're redistributing our population. we put covid target population numbers on open door facilities for the reason you said, so that we can allow more space between them, and we've expanded the use of nontraditional areas to spread them out. >> a couple of weeks ago, i led a delegation of 19 senators who traveled to the southern border. traveled to the rio grande valley. and we saw firsthand the crisis that is unfolding on our southern border. we visited the facility, which was constructed to meet this enormous surge of illegal immigration that is happening
2:32 pm
right now. the biden administration had implemented a ban on media, seeing what was happening at the facility. it was an unprecedented ban. prior administrations did not ban the media from going in. the trump administration allowed the media in. the obama administration allowed the media in. the bush administration allowed media in. the clinton administration allowed the media in. the biden administration blocked reporters and cameras from seeing what happened. the tent facility is this enormous tent city. it has a capacity of 1,000. it was built to hold 1,000 people. under covid restrictions, its capacity is 250. the day we visited the facility, there were over 4,200 people crammed into a facility designed to hold 250 people with covid restrictions. we saw firsthand the biden cages.
2:33 pm
joe biden is building more and more cages filled with children and the crages more and more full than they've ever been. in these biden cages, we saw little boys and little girls. they weren't six feet apart. they weren't three feet apart. they weren't even three inches apart. they were lying side by side by side on the floor. they had no beds. they had no cots. they had no masks. on the floor, holding emergency reflective bleaningts. the rate of covid positivity in the facility is over 10%. what we saw is inhumane. it is a humanitarian crismse it's a national security crisis. it's a public health crisis. and it was preventable. it's the direct consequence of political decisions made by joe biden and the biden administration. in the federal bureau of prisons, would it be acceptable for federal prisoners to be housed in cages where they were side by side lying next to each
2:34 pm
other packed in in the midst of a pandemic. >> senator, the simple answer to that is no. we are scrutinized often for how we house our people during covid. as i stated, it's a challenge, but we absolutely treat everyone with dignity and respect. we have standards. we moot that, regardless of what day it is or what's going on. >> and is there any federal bureau of prisons facility that would be allowed to continue at 1,700% capacity, which is what the tent facility is right now. >> again, senator, i've never experienced that. i know we've been overcrowded before. we're fortunate at this point we have ample bed space, but i can't -- i don't want to answer that, because i don't know the answer. i haven't faced that. to be able to tell you that. >> well, all of this is continuing, and it's getting worse, and it's getting worse
2:35 pm
because of political decisions the bind administration continues make. thank you. >> senator padilla by remote, i believe. >> thank you, mr. chair. >> senator padilla, i'm sorry. your transmission didn't start off well. try again. you want to try? >> ok, is that better? >> we'll see. >> i'll try to deep brief. i know several of the issues i've wanted to raise today have already been passed, including clarity and a better picture on home confinement and the numbers of violations, etc., so appreciate senator grassley raising that earlier in today's hearing.
2:36 pm
i'll keep my remarks and questions to what specific issues, and recently california governor gavin newsom announced plans to close a state prison that had seen a steady decline in population. with covid-19. being one of the immediate causes of the decline. but in closing the prison, it presents the state a tremendous opportunity to take some of the funds that are safe and invest elsewhere while maintaining public safety. these funds could soon be reallocated for a number of projects and programs for the state. so my question for director car jabal is this. the federal prison population has been steadily declining for yeerks and the fallout from covid-19 has further reduced
2:37 pm
the prison population. have you considered closing any facilities and allowing an opportunity for the federal government to more strategically reallocate funds and address that at the same time. >> senator, that's a great question. the simple answer is we're not there yet. we are working as we speak on our realigning and reworking our capacity, as i stated earlier, one of the biggest challenges of the bureau of prisons is our aging infrastructure. over 1/3 of our facilities are over 50 years old and 45% are over 30 years old, which makes it rather challenging. these things deteriorate at a faster rate because of their consistent 365-day use in harsh conditions sometimes. so as we redistribute our population, again, as i stated earlier, part of my responsibilities is to make sure that we put taxpayer money
2:38 pm
to good use. at some point, working through the department to so what our needs are there. may be recommendations on just that, but at this point, i would say the answer is no. but if certainly isn't anything that we would rule out in the future. >> i appreciate a commitment to an ongoing conversation on that front. i think we can be more strategic, more he fisket, more efficient, frankly, in both maintaining public safety, but reforming how we not just housed, but help inmates who do have an opportunity to re-enter society and do so on a more constructive basis going forward. thank you for your testimony today. >> thanks, senator padilla. >> thank you, chairman. director, thanks for being here, and thanks for your forth right manner thus far in the hearing. i'd like to ask some questions related to the jeffrey epstein case. epstein was a wealthy financier
2:39 pm
who ran a global sex trafficking ring that preyed on scores and scores of young women, and and he his cronies committed some of the most repugnant crimes imaginable against these young women. and yet he was allowed to die in the bureau's custody, despite being a known suicide risk. he deprived, or the failures of the bureau in that apparent suicide deprived not only all these young women of having their day in court and justice to be done and meted out in a public way, but in addition, he took with him to his grave all of the additional evidence he had against many of thinks co- conspirators. can you think of any case that approaches the epstein case in terms of a crisis of public trust for the b.o.p.? is there any case that rivals it? >> no, no, i can't think of one. >> so we're greed, thank you for that answer. we've had directors of the
2:40 pm
b.o.p. in the past who gave long-wind meandering answers so they didn't have to acknowledge that we needed to have more resources focused in this case. obviously it's the most basic duty of the b.o.p. to keep prisoners alive. so i guess as a strategic management matter, does every prisoner merit equal treatment, or do some inmates, such as those at the center of the sex trafficking ring, where there's lots of evidence that hasn't yet been gathered against other con spir force, do some prisoners am i right special attention and another make sure their life isn't at risk? >> senator, first off, i'd like say that we certainly treat people fairly, but all of our inmates, in cases like you described there, we apply the appropriate amount of security, needs, things like that, so they're all special cases. without getting into specifics, which i don't think would be appropriate about how we do certain things for certain inmates, the simple answer is that's part of our job to
2:41 pm
assess that and to apply the appropriate amount of supervision and security and it requires more in some cases, then we are be doing that. that's what we do. >> so, thank you. can you give us a top line on what went wrong in this case? i recognize that we have two guards who are about to go to trial in the case, so i understand that there's an ongoing investigation. but we're also over a year into this. and past directors of the bureau haven't given this committee any adequate answers. just bureaucratic nonsense. we're well over a year into the investigation. what can you tell us about what went wrong? >> senator >> senator, it's a statement, it's a fact that i can't discuss it because it's still under investigation. i had my deputy director call the office of inspector general last week, a week or so ago, so get the status of the investigation. we were told that -- i don't
2:42 pm
control the investigation. that is up to the inspector general. you'd have to discuss it with him. it would be inappropriate for notice talk about anything regarding that, other than what i've said already. >> i understand that there would be things that could be used in court about the prosecution of the two guards that can't be discussed here. i don't understand why you wouldn't be able to explain to who's we know about the security footage, what particularly is missing, and how did that snap these guards aren't being investigated for anything related to their construction of evidence as far as i'm aware. so i get there's an investigation that does touch on a prosecution of two individuals, but many more systemic things went wrong than just the things these two guards are being charged with. so a year, year and a half into the investigation, we don't have anything to publicly say to the taxpayers or these victims yet. >> senator, here's i would say. again, i can't speak about something that is under investigation. here's what i will commit to. after that investigation is over, and all of these things
2:43 pm
have been appropriately done, i will absolutely follow up with you on anything regarding what we could do better different. i don't think it would be appropriate for notice get into any that have rate now, because there's even a chance. it's under litigation. i've been advised not to speak about it, but not because i don't want to, but because it's not appropriate right now. >> ok, we will definitely keep to you your word on the pledge for the after action when this trial is over. can you explain what processes have changed with regard to high value targets. there are things you've surely learned that we would want to be implementing to make sure that other high value tarkts obviously every i'm life is equal in dignity in the eyes of god, but for the purposes of investigation of co-con spir force, we care more about keeping certain prisoners alive because they're in evidence other cases. what processes have we changed to make sure other high-value targets are not table commit suicide in a situation like this? >> again, senator, without
2:44 pm
getting into specifics, i don't think it would be appropriate in this forum. i will say that we treat people as appropriate for their security needs. first of all, whether or not someone is valuable to a case is irrelevant. that's someone's job to do. we treat everyone, everyone's life with value. we're going to apply the appropriate security. so again, it's something that i don't think is appropriate to speak about now, but i certainly will follow up with you at which point i can and have that discussion with you. >> i've given you credit for being forth right to this point, but i don't think the answer you just gave allianz with where you start. i think you acknowledge at the beginning that certain prisoners are more important for the purposes of public trust and for other public investigation, and other prosecutions that are happening. ms. maxwell, mr. epstein's chief of staff or whatever we want to call her, she is of greater value to public trust than the median inmate in a facility today. so are you telling me that
2:45 pm
there's nothing additional that's being done to make sure that she can't commit suicide relative to just the median prisoner in any of your facilities. >> we apply appropriate security. you asked me a question earlier, what have you learned, again, without getting into specifics, the answer is we learned flevens that, and we've made adjustments. it's just not appropriate for notice discuss them. but not for the investigative reasons or whatever. we assess the security and the needs of someone who comes in. you use the word high value, special security needs, whatever. we are going to apply the appropriate security that we think we need to do to protect that individual, protect the staff, protect everyone, and we do that individually assessing these cases. >> i've got more i'd like discuss with you about this, but the chairman gets the gavel back, thank you, sir. >> senator is by plote. are you with us, senator?
2:46 pm
>> yes, i am, thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. carbajal with your presence today. will you please provide an accounting. policies, practices, and procedures that are implemented to ensure the preservation and retention of closed circuit camera footage and other evidence relevant to investigations. >> yeah, senator, we have policies and procedures to retain that. some of the issues that we faced in the past were not necessarily retention, they were the things that didn't work. it was our aging infrastructure. we have over 24,000 cameras in the bureau prisons, and in the last 18 months, we've upgraded 116 of those systems it's a resource issue. we're trying to get with the modern era, so to speak. it's a fiberoptic upgrade so we can go to digital platforms. some of the issues we've encounter in the path, and
2:47 pm
certainly i have knowledge that have as a warden that sometimes the cameras weren't working when they should have been. things get old and dated. so we're committed to replacing those. we're working on that now. we've always had retention of systems in place. most of the twhime we didn't have it, it was because the camera was broken or there was a mechanical issue. >> thank you. i'd like to amend the request. this is a request for the record. i'd like to you provide to the committee an accounting of those practices and procedures and also a list of identified incidents where such footage was lost within the last two years am can you do that for the record? >> we will follow occupy that. i don't have that information in front of me, senator, but we can follow up. >> forgive merks i'd like your commitment to that you'll provide that to the committee. >> i will stay it back to my staff and see what we can get you, senator. >> ok, we can certainly demeal disclosure if it's not offered voluntarily, but i hope that we can get that on a voluntarily
2:48 pm
basis. can you please also provide to my office and to the committee an accounting of how many individuals in georgia can currently serving their sentence on home confinement due to the covid-19 pandemic. >> yeah, senator, again, i don't have specifics for that state, but i can certainly follow up wow that. >> thaurks i'd be appreciative if you could provide that information to my office and to the committee. i'd like touch on this question of covid-19 vaccines for b.o.p. personnel. with a particular focus on u.s.p. atlanta, but also taking a national perspective. what steps are you currently taking to encourage adoption of the vaccine by personnel at u.s.p. atlanta? what do you assess to be the public health benefits and the health benefits within federal facilities, such as u.s.p. atlanta and for the population of incarcerated persons of
2:49 pm
having greater vaccine adoption by b.o.p. personnel working at those facilities, please. >> senator, we encourage the staff to take it, but we also, because it's not mandatory, we respect the right to make the choice, and i have to do that. we believe that the way that the vaccine was distributed, now that it's available, that inmates were protected under the umbrella of staff being vaccinated. that's how it was rolled out. that's why staff were chosen first to do that. once again, we have to respect the rights of an individual to make choice. with that said, we encourage it. we educate staff. we try to lead by example, as i mentioned earlier, where i have been vaccinated. i put out video messages. we collaborate with our union. they do the same to encourage staff, but at the end of the day, it's an individual choice. >> thank you for that. would you be willing to work with my team to communicate
2:50 pm
with the leadership at u.s.p. atlanta about how we can work to encourage vaccine adoption by a personnel at u.s.p. atlanta in the interest of the health of employees at fat silt as well as those who are incarcerated there. >> yes, senator, i will. >> thank you so much. thank you again for your testimony, and mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you. senator hawley. >> a few months ago, d.o.j.'s office of legal counsel took up the question of what to prisoners released in home confinement. i'd like to return to that if we could. the opinion there concluded that since some inmates may have substantial time to go before becoming eligible for home confinement under ordinary conditions, the bureau would have to recall these prisoners to correctional facilities. i think we're talking about 4,000 inmates or more. can you give us a sense of what specific monitoring measures are being used to ensure that inmates in home confinement during the pandemic are complying with all of the
2:51 pm
applicable guidelines. >> that means that's 4,500 people wouldn't be out in this at this point. they're being monitored 94% of them are monitored by contracts, nonlaw enforments. we rely on contract individuals to monitor these. most of them are done electronically or g.p.s. the other 4% -- i'm association the other 6% are monitored by federal location moan tomplingt >> as the bureau been successfully able to track all 4,500? or have you lost track of my inmates? >> we've returned 150 to custody 267891 of those 150 were specifically for -- i'm sorry, 26 were for escape, for them not being where they were supposed to be. we fond them. we brought them back to
2:52 pm
custody, as we would. as would be expected. >> very good. what steps is the bureau taking to return these inmates to their respective correctional facilities? >> well, the attention we've got onthat, because of the opinion you stated in november, i believe, that the department of justice put that out. we have always, as part of our mission to prepare for that, the statute currently as written as i mentioned earlier, home confinement was not intended for long-term place am. there's actually about 2,400 that have a release date over a year. there's a small number, over five years, it's about 310. those specifically, we would have to address, because we wouldn't number compliance with the statute. either the statute needs to change or we need to make exceptions. the good thing is we have time. because the president extended the national emergency. so poor still covered under the cares act. the b.o.p.'s concern is simply we're following the law.
2:53 pm
it's not an opinion of who should be out or not. we follow the criteria. we do that fairly. we put them out. we're concerned with making sure that we're actually applying the law as written. >> what challenges do you think you'll face in returning them? >> well, it isn't necessarily a challenge because we have the ample bed space. we have over 11,000 beds available where thofe those would be. if they've been in the community, they certainly could function at a minimum security car. i think more so is that if someone is out there and they're being successful, and they're following the rules, and they've shown that they can do that, then we certainly want to work towards the whole point of this is that they're going back to society at some point. we also respect the fact that these sentence were imposed by the criminal justice system, na court of law, and we respect that. that's why we get so much scrutiny about how we do this. we simply respect the criminal
2:54 pm
justice sp system, and we have a responsibility to make sure. that sentence is served. but we're working within our authorities. >> very good. let me shift topics. mother jones magazine reported in 2018 that up to 72% of prison technology services, which includes tablets and video visitations are dominated by just two companies, those companies are g.t.l. and securis. overall, that's nationwide in the whole prison system. do you know what the breakdown is for the federal prison system? >> no, senator, off my head, i do not. >> can you get back to me about what it is? i'm wondering how much communication costs charged by these two costs have increased. do you have a smple of that? they're free to the inmate, but not to us. we provided video services and
2:55 pm
free phone calls, which wasn't included in the budget. so it is a lot of money, but we also believe that that's the right thing to do, because we've restricted visitation somewhat. so we try to balance it out, but that's the only number off my head. specific companies, i don't know. >> here's what i'm driving at. i'm concerned that there's one or two technology companies who are benefiting disproportionately from this market, in particular there's also the practice of these same companies introducing special lockdown tablets in prisons, charge inmates by the minute, i believe, to read material that's in the public doe mission, all of the profit goes to the tech companies. this is public domain material. that seems to me like a bit of a problem. they're profitting from public domain material due their monopolies in this market. i'll follow up with you about that for the record if i could. thank you for being here today.
2:56 pm
thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator hallee, i want to clarify something. because there was an exchange dialogue between senator grassley and mr. carbajal earlier, and i participated in it on a question you raised. it appears two or three things that i would like to clarify for the record. it is my understanding that the cares act gave b.o.p. the authority to place inmates in home confinement. the authority to initially place the inmate home confinement was limited to the emergency period of the pandemic. but as well as it was crafted, they did not suggest the placement would end when the period would end. i think they were silent on that. and then came an opinion that was handed down. i think you referred to it on the closing days of the trump administration, january 15. office of legal counsel, and they concluded that when the
2:57 pm
emergency situation ended, then home confinement authority ended. i believe this current attorney general see it is different, or may see it differently, make that clare, may see dufrpblt. i'm going to ask him to clarify where worry this situation. i think mr. carbajal said as much earlier, he's looking for statutory guidance or what guidance what to do now with this dilemma. and i hope we can clarify it. >> did i misstate the situation? >> senator, i appreciate that. the cares act didn't change the fundamental statute for home confinement, so we've been placing cares act home confinement under that. again, we stress, we want to follow the law. there was no -- there's no legal combemmedment to bringing them back, but you're correct, it didn't specify what to do. that's simple what will we're saying. we need to be given guidance on what to do with these individuals so we can follow the law. >> ok. i think that's where we come into play. by requesting some opinion from
2:58 pm
the attorney general, which would be my first effort, and if that does not clarify it to satisfaction, then we'll have statutory response after that. >> i want to talk a little bit about danbury. you and i have discussed it before. i know you talked about it today. you well know that the way we conquer this pandemic is to put vaccines into people's arms, whether they're in prison or anywhere else. and whether they were in prison or anywhere else. in your written testimony, you have stated, at this point all bureau staff have been offered
2:59 pm
one of the covid-19 vaccines. and by april 19, all inmates will be eligible for a vaccine. by mid-may, we anticipate that all inmates will have been provided the opportunity to be vaccinated. we know being offered or eligible for vaccine is not the same as actually being vaccinated. that's the goal. can you tell me what percentage of the bureau of prisons staff at danbury have been vaccinated as of today. >> i don't know the numbers specific to danbury for vaccinations, because it changes daily, and as we offered the rounds, i know that our total staffing is about 51% who have accepted the vaccine. i can follow up with you on the
3:00 pm
specific numbers for danbury, because, again, these things, these numbers change daily, and i have facilities, so i don't have the exact numbers for every one of them. >> well, i would appreciate you following up and giving me that answer. do you think you can do it in the next couple of days? >> yes. >> thank you. i have the same question. what percentage of the inmates at danbury have been actually vaccinated? >> again, senator, i don't have the exact number or i can't find it in my notes. the numbers i will say, though, are on public website. they change daily. we updated daily at 3:00 p.m. both those numbers -- >> i'm not asking you to give me that number as of this minute or maybe even as of this day. but my understanding is that it's less than 5t


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on