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DOJ OIG Releases Reports of Remote Inspections of FCC Lompoc and FCC Tucson Examining the Institutions’ Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of the first two reports of a series of remote inspections the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has been conducting of Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities.  In April, the OIG initiated a total of 16 such inspections of selected BOP-managed institutions, contract institutions, and Residential Reentry Centers, sometimes referred to as halfway houses, to examine whether their response to the COVID-19 pandemic was in compliance with DOJ and BOP policy, and pandemic-related guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The two reports released today concern the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County, California, and FCC Tucson, in Pima County, Arizona.

Our inspections have been conducted through phone interviews, review of BOP documents and complaints we have received, our analysis of data from the respective institutions, and the results of a survey we issued to employees of the BOP, contract prisons, and halfway houses. The OIG conducted these inspections remotely because of CDC guidelines and DOJ policy on social distancing.

Today’s reports present very different situations at those two facilities. The OIG’s findings at FCC Lompoc included the following:

  • At least 32 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 as of early May and, by mid-July, 4 inmates had died and over 1,000 inmates had tested positive.
  • Preexisting shortages of medical staff members resulted in challenges for screening inmates and staff members for COVID-19 symptoms; and preexisting shortages of correctional staff members resulted in Lompoc officials delaying for 15 days the full implementation of staff movement restrictions required by BOP for institutions with active COVID-19 cases.
  • Lompoc’s initial COVID-19 screening process was not fully effective.  We identified two staff members who came to work in late March after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.  Further, Lompoc staff did not seek to test or isolate an inmate who reported on March 22 that he began having COVID-19 like symptoms 2 days earlier. The inmate received a positive COVID-19 result on March 30.
  • The BOP’s use of home confinement in response to the spread of COVID-19 at FCC Lompoc in April was extremely limited. As of May 13, over 900 Lompoc inmates had contracted COVID-19 and we determined that only 8 inmates had been transferred to home confinement in accordance with BOP guidance.

By contrast, at FCC Tucson, the DOJ OIG found:

  • No inmates and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 during the period of our inspection in early June.  By mid-July, 11 staff members had tested positive.
  • FCC Tucson effectively began modified operations with social distancing measures on March 17 and enacted a Shelter-in-Place on April 1.  FCC Tucson was not experiencing a staffing shortage, which enabled it to more easily separate its rosters and assign staff to a single institution, thereby limiting possible staff cross-contamination.
  • FCC Tucson had empty housing units available in its U.S. Penitentiary (USP), which it was able to repurpose as quarantine and medical isolation areas.  FCC Tucson implemented a precautionary 14-day quarantine for incoming inmates and limited staff movement within its facilities before it was required by BOP guidance. 

Today’s reports do not include recommendations.  Rather, our inspection reports are intended to assist the BOP and the 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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