A federal court found that Danbury federal prison officials failed to utilize their home confinement authority, risking “serious harm to inmates in violation of the Eighth Amendment”
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) demanded answers from Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal regarding federal authorities’ progress on releasing non-violent prisoners to home confinement amid a serious threat to prison and public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an exchange with Carvajal, Blumenthal referenced a temporary restraining order issued on May 12 by Judge Michael P. Shea, a federal judge on the District Court for the District of Connecticut, against the Warden of FCI Danbury, a federal prison in Connecticut, ordering the Warden to take immediate steps to safely release prisoners to home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The court found that FCI Danbury officials are “making only limited use of their home confinement authority, as well as other tools at their disposal to protect inmates during the outbreak, and that these failures amount to deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to inmates in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”
Blumenthal repeatedly pressed Carvajal for information about the number of FCI Danbury prisoners who have been released to home confinement, whether the prison is complying with the May 12 court order, and whether it has stopped using certain criteria the court ordered it to eliminate from its review of inmates eligible for release to home confinement. This criteria has unnecessarily restricted transfers to home confinement, what the court called “the only viable measure by which the safety of highly vulnerable inmates can be reasonably assured.” Carvajal was unable to answer any question in detail and promised to provide the relevant information to Blumenthal by the end of the day.
In response, Blumenthal said: “Well wouldn’t you agree that what’s happening at Danbury FCI is typical of what’s happening at federal correctional institutions around the country? For you to be unable to give us information that’s relevant to whether you’re complying with a federal court order seems unacceptable. It’s the kind of information that would pertain to every other federal prison around the country. If you’re failing to release prisoners to home confinement at Danbury, where are you doing it acceptably?”