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DOJ OIG Releases Report of Remote Inspection of BOP FCC Oakdale and FCC Pollock Examining the Institutions’ Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of the seventh report in a series of remote inspections the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has been conducting of Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities. The report released today concerns two BOP institutions, Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Oakdale, located in Oakdale, Louisiana, and FCC Pollock, located in Pollock, Louisiana. Despite their geographic proximity—only 53 miles apart in Central Louisiana—FCC Oakdale and FCC Pollock experienced disparate outcomes regarding COVID-19 transmission. Specifically, Oakdale suffered one of BOP’s early and serious COVID-19 outbreaks while Pollock did not have as serious an outbreak.

The OIG’s findings included the following:

• FCC Oakdale Cases. As of November 8, 256 FCC Oakdale inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 and 8 had died as a result of the disease. As of November 8, Oakdale reported 12 active cases among its approximately 1,800 inmates and 24 active staff cases among its approximately 450 federal staff.

• FCC Pollock Cases. As of November 8, 52 FCC Pollock inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 and no inmates had died as a result of the disease. As of November 8, FCC Pollock reported 3 active cases among its approximately 2,650 inmates and 39 active staff cases among its approximately 600 federal staff.

• Facility Layout. FCC Oakdale experienced a large-scale spread of COVID-19 within its low security Federal Correctional Institution I and minimum security Satellite Camp, facilities with open layouts in which it is inherently difficult to socially distance inmates. Conversely, at FCC Pollock, which did not experience as significant an outbreak, most inmates are housed in two-man cells.

• Screening. FCC Oakdale failed to promptly implement BOP inmate screening guidance issued in January and staff screening guidance in February 2020, and, by the time Oakdale expanded screening to all staff on March 19, COVID-19 had already entered the institution.

• Inmate Movement. FCC Oakdale did not fully limit inmate movement until after it identified its first COVID-19 positive inmate on March 21. Conversely, due to issues unrelated to COVID-19, FCC Pollock limited inmate movement beginning in early March and maintained that posture after the onset of COVID-19 in the surrounding community.

• PPE. While FCC Oakdale officials asserted that they always had sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand, we found that, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak at Oakdale in mid to late March, some staff did not have, and in some cases did not understand the necessity of wearing, proper PPE when in close contact with infected or potentially infected inmates.

• CDC Guidance. After receiving test results in mid-May that nearly 100 asymptomatic inmates were COVID-19 positive, Oakdale failed to comply with BOP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolation, quarantine, and PPE guidance. Some inmates who had tested positive were left in their housing units for up to 6 days without being isolated. Moreover, staff who supervised these inmates were not advised that they would be interacting with COVID-19 positive inmates and were not furnished proper PPE prior to the inmates’ isolation.

• Staff Absences. Numerous staff absences during the COVID-19 outbreak at FCC Oakdale resulted in some staff being mandated to work 16-hour shifts, and in some instances, staff volunteered to work as much as 40 hours straight.

Today’s report does not include recommendations. Rather, our inspection reports are intended to assist the BOP and DOJ in identifying strategies to most effectively contain current and future COVID-19 outbreaks. Additional reports of the OIG’s remote inspections will be released in the coming months as they are completed. The DOJ OIG also plans to prepare a capstone report providing BOP-wide conclusions and recommendations resulting from our inspections.

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