tv House Hearing on COVID-19 Pandemic in Prisons CSPAN March 19, 2021 8:10am-10:09am EDT
business. i think our guests, you gave us this third session a lot very constructive ideas about again, what we need to do in this country to strengthen the ability of americans to get high skill, high wage with that, the finance committee is adjourned. >> coming up like today the house returns at 9 a.m. peter to take up a bill to prevent automatic cuts to medicare and other federal programs because of the new covid relief measure. we will have that on c-span. on c-span2 at 10 a.m. house foreign affairs subcommittee holds a hearing on u.s. policy toward asia with a focus on china and north korea. on our website c-span.org a house armed services subcommittee considers defense department electromagnetic spectrum operations and strategy. >> you are watching c-span2 your unfiltered view of government.
c-span2 was greeted by marcus cable television companies and today were brought to you by these television companies who provide c-span2 the viewers as a public service. >> federal bureau of prisons director michael carvajal testified before house appropriations subcommittee, on how the prison systems was responding to the coronavirus pandemic. this is just under two hours. >> overall, how shall we assess b.o.p. is treatment of those in its custody and dedicated staff who work around the clock to carry out their corrections mission. reducing overcrowding of use of staff augmentation an issue i've
contacted b.o.p. about on several occasions in the past, grappled with the continuing threat from contraband such as opioid drugs like that no and implementation of the first step act. in addition we would like to hear how b.o.p. is addressing the ongoing and urgent challenge of its aging facilities and infrastructure. so once again welcome, director carvajal, and we look forward to your testimony. this time i want to turn to my distinguished ranking member mr. >> thank you for yielding, and i appreciate you, mr. , mr. c, rolling this hearing today and i come like like is a pleasee here for the first official hearing of the fy 2022
appropriation cycle and even though we have talked on several occasions i want to formally congratulate you, mr. chairman, your role as chair and wish you well in this new role that you will be undertaking. i look forward to working with you and also to find ways that we can fund programs that foster american competitiveness, enable new discoveries in science both here on this earth and also in space. and the abilities of federal, state and local just to name a few of the person vital missions that is under the purview of the subcommittee. i along with my staff stand ready to work alongside you and your staff to continue in the spirit of the camaraderie that we had shared on the subcommittee, and it's been a hallmark of this for many years. on that note i appreciate you
recognizing all of the new members of the subcommittee. of course from the republican standpoint we have two new republican members. first we have congressman ben cline who represents the six district of virginia. he was a member of the virginia house of delegates. he chaired the committee on militia police and public safety, and is also a former member of the judiciary committee and we look forward to him sharing his perspective with the subcommittee. also congressman mike garcia. he represents california's 25th 25th district and he is a decorated formal naval officer and businessmen. congressman garcia, we do thank you for your service to our nation and look forward to your insights as well, particularly in aviation and aerospace expertise as well as economic development. i am pleased today at this point
today to turn to today's witness, and also like mr. chairman, as you welcomed him i would like to welcome director carvajal as well. this hearing is an opportunity for us to hear about how the bureau of prisons is addressing the many challenges involved in -- the spread of converts among the bureau of prisons inmate population. also think it's a port for us to learn about how the president's executive order mandating the closure of all b.o.p. contract operated institutions is affecting your operations, particularly with respect to its unusual and untimely purpose. the displacement of thousands of inmates while in the throes of pandemic which are taken the lives of, as mentioned, over 200 of the inmates already. with that i look forward to discussing this matter with you
today and again thank you, mr. chairman and i yield back. >> thank you, ranking member aderholt. at this time, director carvajal, you are recognized for your opening remarks. please try to keep your statement to five minutes, every member, as always your full written statement with the included in the record so that enables you to keep the five minutes. you are recognized, director carvajal. >> thank you. good afternoon, chairman cartwright, ranking member aderholt and members of the subcommittee. it is my privilege today to speak on behalf of the 37,000 bureau of prisons correctional professionals the workday in a debt to support our critical law enforcement mission. i had committed had committed to ensuring these dedicated and women are guided by the values
of respect, integrity, courage and correctional excellence. i appreciate this opportunity to discuss the bureau's response to the pandemic along with our efforts to provide inmates with the necessary programming to return to the community and to their families. i have spent the majority of my professional life and career service in the state agency after serving in the united states army i joined up your as a correctional officer and moved up through the ranks to my current position as director. i could do think about our work, the personal sacrifices that your of law enforcement officers make. the bureau currently confined to approximate 100 for 20,000 inmates in 1222 federal prisons nationwide as well as 200 community-based facilities and ten private facilities. almost 80%% of our inmates are serving terms for drugs, weapons or sex offenses with 41% of those being medium and high security offenders. the pandemic is make the safe management of those offenders even more challenging and yet we continue to maintain low levels of serious assault while addressing reentry needs. however it is with a heavy heart
and despite our best efforts at it must report that have been four staff deaths and two and 25 deaths related to covid for the inmates. it's been suggested the borough is spreading covid within our communities. contact tracing performed often reveals that the buyers entered our prisons from the communities. i review shows our institutions generally follow the same spikes and recoveries as seen in the communities where they're located therefore it is vital we all work together. the group in the public to combat the spread. i think each of you for a continued support and providing the resources needed to manage this pandemic. all responses often been mischaracterized in public forums. this is unfortunate since from the first days of the pandemic we work closely with the cdc. we developed a response plan that reflects the best available guides from the nation's leading experts. we continue to assess and update the plan public an external stakeholders into our facilities for audits and to ensure procedural compliance.
these reviews in addition to our internal assessments and inspections both scheduled and unannounced are ongoing and assist us in developing best practices. since the passage of the cares act through existing authorities we have transferred almost 23,000 inmates to home confinement. we have been transparent regarding our mitigation plans,, are operational adjustments and data including staff and inmate covid cases testing numbers and now fortunately vaccine administration. our public website contains a comprehensive overview of our current status and is updated daily. we are thankful for the bureau has provided the fisa and the moderna vaccines. i am proud to say we have administered over 80,000 doses to staff and inmates. the bureau was recognized leading all jurisdictions and federal entities in having a high percentage of vaccines administered per dose is allocated in the united states. in addition to responding to covid several of our facilities in texas recently faced a severe
winter weather event. despite the unexpected impact of the surrounding infrastructure including rolling blackouts frozen water lines and resource distribution we were able to maintain our operations. at the request of fema we also assisted the the state of ts during the emergency by providing logistical support and supplies to several local municipalities. our staff at responding to these continuous challenges with dedication and resilience. i am extremely proud of their work. an ongoing criticism of her agency has been a lack of appropriate staffing and reliance on augmentation and overtime. we are committed to addressing these concerns by increasing our staffing levels nationwide and more importantly retaining our staff. we have a nation of hiring campaign focused solely on external hiring to maximize our staffing levels. all available recruitment and retention incentives marketing strategies and social media are being utilized to reach potential candidates and to retain staff. i'm honored to speak on behalf
of all the bureau staff who work tirelessly to mitigate the spread of this virus while carrying out are very important mission. this is challenging but it is vital to the safety security of the public, our staff and inmates entrusted to our care. chairman cartwright, ranking member aderholt and other distinguished members of the subcommittee this concludes my statement. >> thank you, director carvajal. i will recognize myself for five minutes of questions. director carvajal, roughly 40% of b.o.p.'s budget is for inmate care and programs which about $1.3 billion is for inmate medical care. given this and the inherent risks posed by contagious disease in the close quarters of corrections facilities, getting up and close personal is the daily life there, it seems
prudent that b.o.p. would already have robust plans for pandemic contingency already in place and i would imagine include some form of decision hierarchy and option for escalating responses, adapting to changing conditions and knowing when to throw out the playbook and call in outside help and resources. while recognizing that you anticipate the scale of this global pandemic, in your view did b.o.p. plans in place in 2020 include sufficient plans for a systemwide infectious disease outbreak? >> thank you, chairman. that is certainly a question that should be answered, and i will tell you that the answer to that is yes, we had contingency plans. i think the bureau of prisons has a well-documented positive history of dealing with
pandemics before, influenza outbreaks, measles, chickenpox, ebola, things of that nature. however as you are solely where and i was actually my infamous quote when is it i don't think anybody was ready for this shortly after got in this position, what i was referring to is i think we've all seen this world is at this covid was, it's huge. we learned a lot of things on the fly. one of the big things that's different was the ability to social distance, and how that a factor in prisons as you know, chairman, are not made for social distancing so that was one of the more obvious lessons we learned. never did i speedy let me stop you there if i might. i only get five minutes. i have three questions here in five minutes that really to me you said yes, there were plans in place and my question is, were such plans widely understood by vlp personnel and would adequately trained on them, including steps and
sequences? >> yes chairman. as you mentioned in late january our medical director as late as january come last week of january already come have already implement the task for specific to covid with the medical folks and sent out kites. so we're already working on what is going to occur and distribute to the medical folks probably in retrospect what we could get done a little better was spread that out to everyone out along with the medical folks get one of the first briefings i received as a new director was on covid and i will tell you that it was very enlightening to see what was going on, but that is one of the lessons learned. but i am happy to say that our medical people were already on this. >> that's what i'm after, what are the lessons learned, and the question is what forward-looking plans have you put in place based on the lessons learned to ensure you are prepared for any future disease outbreak
situations? >> chairman, we've done a lot of best practices and lessons learned. we established covid compliance review teams for just that, to review facilities. we send many unannounced. we stock up on ppp. one thing i have to say that in traditionally we keep a high amount of ppe i will tell you i was very nervous and worried about obtaining it early on as you well know everyone was out to get it but he was happy to know that we had a good stockpile already. we built a national logistics center, a regional logistics site, and we ensure there is appropriate ppe. we at no time randall on ppe but we were concerned about appropriate usage of it and control of it. >> okay. that leads to my next question. how well resourced was vlp and its facilities, its staff, logistics and supplies to deal with the pandemic? >> chairman, as i mentioned
earlier we are traditionally had contingency plans for everything so we had the base things in place i think that as i mentioned earlier that we were prepared was the magnitude of what the pandemic entails. we scrambled as big what else to ensure we get appropriate ppe. us for our procedures we've been in lockstep with the centers for disease control and other organizations from day one. my medical director committed a minimum of weekly so our plans were used to assist develop a correctional pandemic response plan. so i would say that we working through that evolving as we went. >> the last question i have is it relates to the transfer of inmates from one place to another. that happens all the time in the vlp. it has always happened, but as i mentioned and you know in an emergency and in a new situation
you have to be ready to throughout the playbook and adapt to new circumstances. what did vlp due to adapt to the new circumstances once it became clear all you had to do was read the newspaper to realize that taking some base temperature wasn't enough to make sure that the disease wasn't being transmitted. what did vlp due to adapt to that knowledge? >> as i said we've been in lockstep with cdc and consulting with them. our procedures were from the start we started quarantines and isolation procedures and had screening. i know you mentioned the movement and its renault we were scrutinized for that. what i will say is that we are statutory obligated. the court so that and appreciate that but we had really all of those local and county facilities and the inmates that were designated to us essentially it is our mission is i couldn't stop and not take in
inmates. >> that's all i have for now. i'm going to yield to ranking member aderholt. >> okay. can you hear me? am i coming through? >> yes. >> okay good. well, director carvajal, you stated in your testimony that the bureau of prisons does not control who the court places in your actual, in the actual system. but the president stated in a recent executive order without any evidence that quote, to decrease incarceration levels we must reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate by phasing of the federal
governments for on privately operating criminal detention facilities. the question that i would have for you is, i would just want to clarify with you since you are currently the nation's foremost authority on the prison system, is it judges and it's not prison operators or administrators that actually make sentencing decisions, is that correct? >> yes, congressman, i would agree. >> and are you aware of any profit-based incentives that are influencing prison sentences by our federal judges? >> know, congressman, i personally am not aware of any. >> thanks. and as i had alluded to this past january the president signed executive order that a limited the use of heavily operated detention facilities, which ends all agreements with
the detention contractors. what would happen to the people who work at these facilities got a little ethers thousands of work across the nation from big spring texas to motion valley pennsylvania to baldwin michigan, and the local economics given present literally took away the jobs with signing this executive order? for example, baldwin, michigan, where northlake federal collection instance is located has a population of roughly 1100 people. northlake employs 260 people and i realize that this is a rhetorical question but because, you know, what type of impact with this have, even the like is
that i know you're not responsible for it, you know, just get your thoughts on what impact it will have overall. >> yes, congressman. that's difficult for me to answer the question because i'm going to say that there's an obvious impact come i can't sit here and tell you that human beings are going to be impacted because that's obvious is run jobs available. unfortunately, i don't have control over what the private stew. we have contracts. my responsibility as the director is to ensure that we utilize taxpayer money appropriate and i managed the federal bureau of prisons and in order to get back to maintain and make sure that we are appropriately utilizing the funds obviously that you so graciously give us and the need to make sure there's a need for those beds. i will say, congressman, back last year late november december we were in the process, we had already evaluated this and in my
previous position as assistant director i oversaw the privates. we already made the decision because of bed space needs and not needing it to expire some of those contracts to natural progression. we did know anything about this executive order into it came out but we've already made that decision for the contracts that are currently being close. i do want to point out those have nothing to do with executive order. that was an intro decision based on what we're supposed to be doing and that is effectively using our funds. >> what's going on? >> you are muted, mr. aderholt. >> house that? >> yes. >> i just want to point out that a loss of vital, good paying jobs is not only a problem with an executive order like this but
you noted that the bureau of prisons visit to a 14 day quarantine protocol for any necessary inmate movement and the cdc guidelines on inmates quarantine recommends housing quarantine inmates are quote separately in a single cell with solid walls and solid doors fully closed followed by separately in a single cell with solid walls but without solid floors. that sounds like solitary confinement which i know b.o.p. tries to minimize as much as possible. my question is, bureau of prisons following that cdc guidelines and isolating thousands of inmates who are or will be transferred out of the contract operating facilities for for a 14 day period back. >> congressman, the short answer to that is yes, but i will note that i actually don't like the
medical term isolation for the reasons you said. we don't like to do that. here's something that we learned during covid because the cdc told us that we should be doing that in my medical professionals advise me to come on the correctional side we struggled e for that for the reasons you said but yes, we try to follow as much is possible that isolation guidelines. we are mandated to do that. we do it. but what we've done to mitigate the other area of leaving them in isolation, medical isolation, there is a difference, is that we do enhanced screening. they are checked on twice a day. we make sure that staff are engaging them and making sure that their needs are met. we understand other challenges that brings potential with mental health and things like that but have to listen to the experts and it don't make decisions for the vacuum. my medical director advises and we use that information to make the best decisions. >> thank you. i see my time is up. thank you, mr. chairman.
>> i write. at this time we recognize representative charlie crist for five minutes of questions. >> thank you very much appreciate the opportunity to be in this important hearing. our first, i want to thank the ranking member out or hold -- ranking member aderholt who i i went to the same law school, not with but the same law school in alabama. so thank you, director. it's wonderful to have you with us today. as you know then attorney general barr directed the bureau to prioritize the released on confinement of vulnerable and qualified inmates. presently b.o.p. has about 7500 prisoners under home confinement and whitsitt indicates the total number place in home confinement since march 26 of last year is over 22,000. what have you learned about the use of home confinement during the pandemic, and has been underutilized, and could the bureau do more to leverage of
this opportunity? >> thank you, congressman. that's a great question, and i will tell you that first of all we have utilized the other authorities given to us as directed by the attorney general to the best we could, form the guidance that was given to us. your numbers that you mentioned are there. what i will say that it created as a quagmire. the current statute from confinement is for a reentry transitional program for inmates at the end of their sentence. the statute of the cares act didn't change that comes what they did is we have been applying inmates to home confinement for covid reasons under the statute which created some challenges, okay? as you're well aware you said we have about 7500, about 4500 of those currently cares act home confinement. we maximize abuse use of y as best as possible, the attorney general gave us the criteria and we find that.
>> i have a question, so of the existing low-risk inmates, many have not been put into home confinement, do you know offhand? >> no, congressman, a don't know the exact number. >> if you can get it for me that would be great. i would appreciate that. [inaudible] >> yes, you will do that, yes? thanks. i appreciate that. in the area of nonviolent marijuana convictions, do you have the breakdown of how many of those individuals have been given home confinement? >> no not specifically that adequately that one of the non--- yes, i can't. >> that would be great. thank you. i appreciate that very much. i think i have just one other. we all know how important it is to get vaccinated especially vulnerable populations and our
front-line workers and i understand that corrections officers and the staff of the bureau of prisons facilities have been offered vaccines. can you speak, employees have taken up on offer or what percentage? >> yes, congressman. everyone in the bureau of prisons employee wise has had the opportunity been offered the vaccine and approximately write about 49% have accepted it. we certainly are continuing to encourage it and offering it. so if someone changes their mind or wasn't available they can tell us they were one and will make arrangements to make sure they get it. >> how many employees do you have? >> we have currently a little over 37,000, congressman. >> why do you think it is that less than half have opted to be vaccinated when it's been offered to 100%? doesn't strike you as odd? >> congressman, i i wish i cod answer that but i certainly can't force it on anyone. i will tell you this, i am
vaccinated at the anchored all of my staff to get it. that's the best i can do. >> i am, too, and not to interrupt, i just having a conversation. i am, too, and i'm grateful for that. there's about a hundred of my colleagues had been offered the opportunity be vaccinated as well, and i'm heartbroken that they are not vaccinated. not only for them but for people that they may socialize with, even if socially distanced appropriately, that they may end up infecting them or being infected themselves and dying. i mean, it boggles my mind. do you have any opinion on that? as a leader in our country? >> as a leader and wreck of the bureau of prisons by response was is to encourage my staff to take the availability, the available protection at that's what i've done. i respect people's personal choices though. >> i do, too. it just, i don't cover he did very well.
maybe that's my fault. anyway, thank you so much for your time. i appreciate it very much, sir, and keep up the good work and setting a good example. >> thank you. >> i recognize representative steven palazzo for five minutes of questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman and director carvajal, thank you for being here today. as we progress through the pandemic there was a quick realization that senior living facilities where a recipe for rapid immunity spread. that same notion of how close communal living. a risk of controlling the spread of covid was realized four of us sympathize type of facility, our prisons. myself and my office received several calls from family members in a panic about the elder loved ones and their fate sitting in a prison during the pandemic. they closely watched as attorney general barr released updated directives regarding home confinement. it got to appoint what it was was clear that these family
members in prison to work nonviolent offenders were qualified for home confinement for the direct is that the had taken no action on getting these individuals out. my staff resorted to reaching out to legislative affairs staffers within the b.o.p. to move these cases along. it is my opinion that cutting off visitors created a huge problem. there was no transparent families as to prisoners were actually being treated in the new covid in private. families were now more worried about the care of the relatives and the lack of communication from b.o.p. and the prisoners themselves on the exasperating things. so my question is what are the lessons learned from that covert situation at b.o.p., and how will this overall process be improved? >> thank you, congressman, very good question. first off i will tell you that the decision to stop visiting
with a difficult one. i certainly understand after spending 30 years in this agency to imports of visiting and certainly it's part of our reentry process, the effect that family contact has been that would have on me but for some foremost as you stated earlier are responsible is to make sure we protect and keep everyone safe, inmates, their families and staff. we had to think through that. i am happy to say that as lessons learned and we adjusted to covid on how we could mitigate these things, a lot of our institutions were able to come up with creative ways to build barriers and safely do this, make appointment system and things of that nature so we could reconnect the families with the inmates. that is important. so those are some of the lessons learned. we have done the same things you see that schools are doing, restaurants, put up barriers, sprint people apart, limit the amount of folks in there at one time. it was a difficult decision but it think it was important to do
at the time. >> good. i appreciate that response. also threat this pandemic how many people are actually released to home confinement from b.o.p.? >> as i stated earlier, congressman, over 23,000 transferred to home confinement. they are still in in a custo. a lot of people believe they are released but have been. of course as a compassionate releases, i'm aware of about 3000 of those. i will tell you that off my head people have released out of our system and i don't have that current number but i can certainly follow up with you, total releases over the year i can follow up with you on that. >> i'm sorry, i can't hear you. >> all right. i didn't even touch the mute button but somebody muted me. i'll find out who that is later. can you briefly describe the
actual criteria for the compassionate home confinement? >> okay, so congressman, it's a little, i know it's difficult. i have trouble room ring this sometimes but the home confinement criteria is separate. the compassionate release criteria, the key there is extraordinary and compelling circumstances that wouldn't have been known at the time of sentencing. that's what makes it so difficult. it isn't listed. there's a lot of criteria, it's a very serious situation to look at and the fact of covid obviously it's covid risk and medical so it's not a tommy process. essentially what the compassionate release does is they are asked me to make a motion to the court to undo a sentence that was imposed by a judge and the court. that's not a quick process. we alter that is everyone that submits the packet for compassionate release we review automatically from confinement because that's the quickest way to get somebody into the
community and the safest way. >> so addressing those release for home confinement, do these folks ever go back to prison? >> that's a great question, congressman, and we haven't gotten there yet. the statute did not, it didn't say whether or not, there was no guides there. it didn't change the rule. i will tell you that i have the numbers. we have discussed that with the oncoming administration and i'm waiting to a further discussion and see what we will do what we do have a plan she would need to take them back. >> all right, director, thank you so much for your time. i yield back. >> thank you, and the chair recognizes congressman ed case for five minutes of questions. >> thank you, mr. chair. mr. director, i join everybody else in thanking you for what is a tough job in any event but
especially over the last year so thank you for your service and for all of the folks that serve with you. i really just need to follow up on congressman chris questions relative to vaccinations. let me just ask you a question that it seems we dance around. are you able to compel your correctional officers who work in close quarters about the closest quarters in the country, highly difficult environment to start with, but tailor-made for the spread of covid. are you able to compel them to be vaccinated as a condition of employment? >> congressman, i asked that question early on because of the obvious scrutiny, and the questions we get and etch to that is no, at this point i cannot. the reason i cannot is because the vaccines as there issued now
have not been fda approved. they are under emergency use authorization i can't compel them to. obviously we have collective bargaining agreement so at that point she would ever make that decision once you are authorized i still have to negotiate the process appropriately, and respecting people's rights because it will become a condition of employment, it is someone refused a vaccine potential event may not have a job. it's a little bit more of a process but at this point in time no, sir, i cannot compel them to take it. i can just make it available and encourage it. >> you cannot compel them to take it because it is not fully fda approved and because it is not fully fda approved somehow there is some condition about this vaccine that calls into question whether -- i'm not sure i follow the connection between the fda approval and your ability to compel? >> congressman, i certainly
understand because i don't fully understand it myself, but as you're aware i give guidance and counsel from people so between my medical personnel, my legal personnel and my personnel list, the human resource i can we've had extensive conversation. i assure you if i could compel it, just for the sake of to me, since i would do it but i do have to follow the rules and i respect that. i can get back with you at which point that changes, but that's the best i can explain it to you right now. >> are you able to compel the inmates of the prisons to take a vaccine, same reasoning or they are not subject to collective-bargaining agreement? is the fda approval side of the still applicable from your estate? >> yes. the guides i've been given by my medical folks and my general counsel on the legal aspects is the same reasoning is that i
can't compel an inmate. we do offer it. we do encourage it but i t make anyone take the vaccine. >> and thin question as to the officers have actually offered the vaccine to all inmates out of what is the percentage of acceptance versus refusal? >> great question, congressman. as i stated earlier 100% of our staff have been offered. on the inmates, no dose goes unused with the so if we offer, we get the right fixing we offer to the staff. if they choose not to take it we use inmates. there is a priority list for the most vulnerable. at this point in time about 25% of the population has been vaccinated. by july the last thing i was told was a july 100% of% of inmates will have been offered the vaccination, okay? >> okay, and so that's a slightly different answer than the question i i asked the question i asked was, of the
inmates offered, how many headset okay, i'll do it, whenever it happens, and how many have refused? is the percentage roughly half as it was the case with the officers themselves? >> congressman, i apologize because that makes it clear, i don't know the answer to that. i do know that we utilize it so i don't know exactly the percentage of how many are refusing it or opting not to take it, but i can follow up with you on that. i'm sure we have those numbers. >> i give very much. let me make an observation in the very few seconds i have remaining, sir. the fact that one half of the offices are declining to take a vaccination that is available to them in this charge or situation is unexplainable. i don't know how to explain that. you have something like almost
toward a person of inmates that are now being infected in one way, shape, or form by covid if i understand your statistics correctly. i apologize, mr. chapin i just want to make this point. something is wrong if one half of the officers that can take it don't and i don't know whether that's lack of information or misinformation or some misunderstanding in the office of force but it is a public health matter that mean he declined to take it, and somethings wrong there. i it at that and hope that doesn't answer to that at some point. >> the chair recognizes congressman ben cline for five minutes of questions. >> i think the chairman, look forward to contributing to the subcommittees work. i want to thank the ranking member and all my colleagues on
the subcommittee, and it's great to be a new member. i will take a slightly different approach to the questions, follow up on my colleague questioning about home confinement. because i do think that the the constitutional and other questions around forest vaccinations kind of, well, present themselves pretty clearly. but, director carvajal, since march of 2020 b.o.p. has transferred over 23,000 inmates to home confinement. how has the b.o.p. monitored the significant increase in inmates outside of its facilities? >> congressman, the majority of those inmates, 94% of the inmates in community confinement which is, including home confinement, are monitored by contract. i want to stress that's one of
the reasons we really look at who we put out because we do take a look safety and way that heavily. those 94% monitors or contracts are not law enforcement officials, okay? they are so providing oversight and contracting. the other 6% a monitored by united states probation office through electronic monitoring. >> thank you. i was a prosecutor for several years. it was a local prosecution by the same dynamic applied. you had a home confinement ankle bracelets or monitoring. we had several instances where there were violations of home confinement. have you seen any increase in the rate of violations of home confinement since you have transferred all 23,000 inmates to home confinement? >> that's a good question, congressman.
i am aware of 21 people being back into secure custody. only one of those was a new crime. the other ones were violations. i don't know the numbers right to that, congressman, but i can certainly look at them but i'm aware of the 21 since passage of the cares act. >> okay. thank you, and did he recall what that new crime was? >> congressman, as is that i was trying to lure. no, sir, at this point i don't but i can certainly follow up with you. >> i appreciate that. in terms of the contracts, are those specific to the kinds of technology that has to be used in the home confinement, the terms of their confinement? or is it pretty much left to the contracting agency? >> no, sir, in the statement of
work we spell out the requirements it is for electronic monitoring. there's a few exceptions because it has to do with either a disability or something of that nature. it's a very small percentage. the majority of them, the basinger of them are electronic monitoring. of course there's also no cell phone monitoring and tracking things of that nature but that's predominately what we do. we write that into the statement of work to make sure they can meet the obligations that we want. >> is the statement of work pretty clear on reporting requirements in cases of violation where any and all triggers of the devices have to be reported back to b.o.p., and so these companies can't hide a lot of the malfunctions or violations that might be occurring? >> congressman, i don't specifically know the answer to that but i will tell you that we do checks on the contractors. obviously we do quarterly.
we do unannounced checks on them and things of that nature. so we do monitor that, but to answer your particular question i don't have the information. i can follow up with you. >> bad be great. -- that would be great. i'm just encountering the subject for the first time, so can you tell me how many different contracting businesses there are? i i mean, are the dozens or hundreds, or how many? >> i believe at last count we had approximately 80 different vendors we used. it varies. it goes up and down, but he was 80 the last count. >> okay. thank you very much. i see my times running out. mr. chairman, i will yield back. >> thank you. the chair recognizes congressman deutch ruppersberger for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and first thing, i left this
committee about ten years ago, and when i had the opportunity to come back i decided this is were i wanted to be. i think the issues we have to do with our extremely important. i think we've got a good team on both sides of the aisle and if they get to work in a bipartisan way we can get a lot accomplished. there's a lot of issues on the table now, what jurisdiction we do have here. i know your employees are hard-working individuals. it's a tough business. i was a former prosecutor years ago and had to deal with somewhat with the prison guards, and they really go all out and do as much as they can, and they need to be protected, including from covid. these hearings are about as getting answers and holding you and your agency accountable, but it also should provide this with guideposts to help address gaps, shortfalls and problems.
now, the recent data, not really the recent data. i i know, by the way, we can't force vaccination, but can't your medical team determine how prison staff not getting vaccinations are impacting rate of infections in prisons? is a causing a boomerang effect of prisoners or staff getting affected? i know to make other members also addressed this issue and i think we have to address it because the numbers are real that were having some problems in this regard. now, the recent data from johns hopkins bloomberg school of public health states that covid-19 cases are often detected among staff before prisoners. compared to the rest of the u.s. population, cases in prisons are 3.2 times more prevalent among
prison staff, and 4.6 times more prevalent among prison residence who within doctrine covid-19's at a three times higher rate than same age population. now, given this, would you characterize covid-19 to be a graver danger? i have for my questions that would you characterize covid-19 to be a great danger? would you be willing to submit to a federal safety standards to protect your employees? what are you doing to prioritize a vaccine distribution and uptake among prisoners and staff? and what prevents the bureau from adopting more transparent process for compassionate release? it you get that? >> yes, congressman, i will tell
you that we, as i stated earlier, our medical director, his team are lockstep with cdc. so i get all, i'm not a doctor so i have to to listen to the experts. sometimes i'll be perfect honest with you, congressman, i don't like the decisions i've to make. i don't like the guidance i'm given by do listen to them because they are the experts. so i followed that guidance closely. .. >> to make sure that we're doing everything possible to protect the inmates and the staff. you mentioned the vaccinations. and that's one of the reasons that we prioritize staff for the inmates because the
potential for them because they come and go in the community, so the inmates are actually protected under the umbrella or staff are vaccinated and that's one of the reasons we do that. i think i missed part of your question. >> the per percentage of guards that are not taking the shot legally. there's got to be a way to change that number. if the guards aren't being protected, then the inmates aren't being protected. it's a big issue and a big problem. i would hope that maybe you're under the umbrella of justice that we take a look at that and have your attorneys to look at that because it's going to happen. if nobody has the shots, and these people, the guards on the outside get infected and i'm really concerned about that. i think it's one of the big issues and let me say this, you
have a tough job and everybody works in prisons have tough jobs and you've got to have integrity. you've got to work as a team to back each other up, and it's not an easy job. and it's very easy for us to criticize because a lot of things happen, happen in prison that don't happen other places, but i think we have to deal with that issue and as long as covid is around, until we smash it out. we have to focus on guards protecting themselves protecting inmates, that's their job basically. >> yes, i understand. i'm committed to providing that information and education and we continue-- i agree we should have as vaccinated as possible, but as i said earlier, we can't make anyone take that vaccine.
>> and i'm not going to argue with you, if you want to operate on someone in this country you have to be a doctor and it's the same thing here, when we to people are getting covid and we can't stop it because they refuse to get a shot. mr. chairman, i really hope we can focus on that one issue itself because i think until we do, we're still going to have a lot of problems and i read you the numbers. the johns hopkins numbers medicine for that reason. >> point well taken, congressman ruppersberger. and i now want to recognize congressman garcia for a few minutes. >> thank you, it's an honor to be on tjs, it's my first committee hearing and thank you for that kind welcome. director carvajal, i want to thank you for your position and the corrections industry, but as an army personnel as well.
thank you, sir. this issue of privately managed versus b0. p operated facilities in the midst of a covid pandemic. using covid deaths as a measure of merit, as the metric, if you will, which entity performed better than the other? were the privately owned, privately operated facilities more successful at preventing covid deaths than the government ones or vice versa? >> congressman, that's a tough question because i think that even one death, obviously, weights heavily on me and you know, they weigh heavily on me, even one too many. but i will tell you that it's hard to compare that because our numbers are so different and no, i don't have any data as far as percentages and all that.
but i will tell you that i do believe that our staff have done a great job considering the circumstances and what we've learned. i'm happy to say there's only six inmates in the hospital right now ap zero on beds and i think that, again, that shows that we've gotten a handle on this somewhat, but i do not have the numbers that you're talking about. i can certainly look them up and get back with you on that. as far as the-- >> that would be great. i think that's one of the metrics that's probably-- one of the most important, if we're looking at this seriously and how to prevent it in the future, the number of deaths seems to be a metric we should be tracking. you mentioned earlier in your testimony that some of the privately owned contracts expired due to a lack of demand. is it reasonable to infer from that statement then that from a capacity perspective, the bop is actually doing well right now with what you have? >> what i can tell you,
congressman, we have increased capacity. that's one of the things that we took into consideration. the last few years our population has trended downward. it's really hard to predict a year or two off how many beds we'll need, but somehow our research people have seemed to hit it pretty close. we're not predicting an increase. certainly if priorities change with the front end, you know, we'll see an increase, but that hasn't shown the case and because we've put the 23,000 on home confinement and natural releases, we release about 40,000 a year in general. right now we have about 55,000 empty beds in our system right now. >> okay. and in a nominal world outside of a pandemic such as the one we have, we have early release options, would that be about the same vacancy rate or would you forsee the demand rising
above the levels of capacity that you have? >> again, congress, i don't know the exact numbers, i haven't looked at them. i'll tell you our population was downward trending, so to speak, so, one thing we are doing is taking advantage of this to reestablish many so targets. and one of the best practices, i think this is related to what we have been talking about is we couldn't social distance as i've stated a couple of times, what this lower capacity has allowed us to do though is spread that population and open barricks so we put a target percent of 50% capacity and that also led to making it safer in the prison. and now, obviously, we won't always have that ability, but we're revisiting how we put capacities on those low open dorm types because of covid. >> and though low efficiencies are unique hopefully not only to a pandemic and what we
should be striving for. you said there were prisons and jails that decided to release more inmates probably than the 23,000 within bop even. if your estimation, did that save more lives than it ended up costing? did that save more prisoners from dying of covid than it did victims dying of actions as a result of prisoners on an early release program? >> congressman, i can't answer that question because i don't know the data and i don't have it so that would be pure speculation, i don't want to do that, sir. >> okay. i'm out of time, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank you, director. >> thank you. at this time the chair recognizes congressman david trone for five minutes. thank you, mr. chair. i have an ongoing interest in
the criminal justice reform and the bureau of prisons is certainly key to that. director, i met with you in my office and your staff six days on march 3rd, 2020 after you came into office. and we had a wonderful meeting and we gave you a whole list of things we wanted responses to because it was-- you were new and we never got those responses. then on march 31st, we followed up with a letter, with all of our questions, and we never got a response. on april the 17th, we followed up with another letter and we never got a response. on 4-23 my staff met with your staff and we never got a response. so we reached at the letter this week because we have assurance from president biden, i'm on this committee now with some oversight and just a yes
or a no because i recommend to the biden administration that you and your staff are incompetent and so my question for you is can i get a yes to answering all of our questions? >> yes, congressman. >> thank you. that would be just great. one year later. next yes, i've been made aware of the number of bop facilities, including in one in my region returned ssa funding for long-term funding for occupationnal training. we'd like an answer on that, if you could in writing, as to the number of dollars returned and what facilities returned them and why exactly they couldn't use those dollars to help the eligible occupational training programs which were put into effect to help reduce our criminal-- our prison group of fsa
funding? can you get that information to us? >> yes i will, congressman. >> perfect, thank you. the other issue i've suffered a bit of setbacks is on is data collection. i think we need data in your system and a lot of our requests are about that. the ric recommended retime recidivism data that shows outcomes related information, to effectively evaluate fsa pattern, what they call risk assessment instrument and your rehabilitative programming. this would require specifically expanded data collection, evaluation, dissemination of post release outcomes because we're all about outcomes so i can drive recidivism lower, including data about reassists, employment, other post incar ration. what plan does bop have to
undertake this clearly exexpansive of data collection and tracking the incarcerated individuals, home confinement and et cetera, and later in the supervision, and so we can make this all happen. >> okay. thank you, congressman. first of all, i do recall our visit and it was a good visit and i will tell you that i will certainly look into the first i'm hearing about these nonresponses, i assure you, you'll not make an excuse. i'll see what happened. there's a clearance process, it shouldn't take a year. my apologies, no disrespect intended and given the opportunity, i'll address the issues, i won't talk about what happened before and i'm here now. i know i asked some of the questions some of the money we're using for first step back is working with contractors to
do just what you're saying. i don't know why it wasn't done before, sir, i can't answer that question, but we're committed to doing it going forward. >> okay, you'll get that information back to me on the money return, where it was returned and why we couldn't execute the money given to help our returning citizens. thank you. >> quickly, we'll follow up more later, but private sector partnerships, we've got to give folks a fair shot of employment and it should be because of our criminal history that they're excluded. so you watched the ready to work initiative in june of 19 to improve outcome directly with employers to hire individuals. my-- 500 returning individuals, returning citizens and the question is what were the lessons learned for the ready to work initiatives and are you planning another iteration of
this much-needed program? >> congressman, i'm not-- i know, i remember discussing that program with you and i certainly support it. i will tell you that right now i'm not familiar with any numbers on that program. we've obviously been dealing with covid. now, i get reports on a lot of things. one thing that i certainly will give back to you on is that the returning of money i'm certainly not aware of that, but i'll find the answers for you, congressman and follow up for you thank you, i'll yield back on this point in writing, to, so we're on a beautiful trail, which i like. thank you. >> thank you, at this time the congressman recognizes grace ray for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you to doctor and director carvajal for your being here and for your work. i have two questions, one is about pregnant inmates as you know are especially vulnerable
population, according to national guidance. pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care, screening, diagnostic tests. recent gao findings is that the policies on pregnancy related care don't align with national guidance. specifically national guidance has 16 pregnancy related care topics and bop policies fully align on only eight of the 16. what policies does bop have in place to assure that pregnant inmates have access to regular quality of pre-natal care? and also, what sort of data is kept so that the bop track related to pregnant inmates? >> thank you, congresswoman. i know that i certainly very, very much interested in this, you know, pregnant inmates and making sh your that they're safe.
i won't follow up with my medical director. i'm not familiar-- i'm familiar with what you're talking about, the recommendations and all that, but i'm not familiar why we aren't there. i will certainly find out and i'll tell you during covid, we've gone above and beyond to make sure that those pregnant females are taken care of. there are only seven in our custody and the only reason they remain in our custody and not in the community, they don't meet the criteria and they have mental challenges and things of that nature so it's an important topic and i will tell you and this goes to the congressman and a couple of other issues, that are failures in the past. i've established a task force recently after speaking and meeting with gao to address some of the issues and again, i won't make excuses about why we haven't, and the opportunity going forward, we're going to address these things and that task force is going to help me get the plans in place, find out where the breakdowns were and identify these issues so that we can make sure that we
don't repeat these things and we have that information for you going forward. >> great, thank you. and then i have another question about the issue of solitary confinement. last year npr reported the use of solitary confinement in prison to curb the spread of covid-19. prior to, there was 16,000 in solitary confinement. and the last number was hundreds of thousands. knowing that solitary confinement can cause mental and physical harm and is recognizeds an a form of torture, how many are in solitary confinement today? how many are there due to covid and how long on average are inmates kept in solitary
confinement? >> okay. congresswoman, good questions. this is a big topic in my previous assignment and coming up the ranks, i'm very familiar with what we call special housing. i don't use the word solitary confinement. that's not reflective of what we do, and i understand your concerns with it. we don't put people in there-- the average stay is 75 days for special housing and how many in there for covid, zero, should be zero. now, we did have medical isolation, we can't confuse these things, but we should not be, i'm not aware of anyone. my expectation no inmates are in the special housing unit because of covid. now, i have to explain this, what i will say, there have been times when inmates who were in special housing because that's where they're quartered,
contracted covid. there are some differences there, but today, this morning, there was a little over 8500 inmates in special housing to answer your question. >> thank you, can i ask a follow-up. so the 8500 inmates who are in there for about on average 75 days, do they have access to phone calls, to, you know, to the outside world? >> yes, congresswoman, they do. the-- they're a little bit more restricted depending if they're in there on a disciplinary infraction, there are special instances with that. and yes, they're afforded phone calls, the same as general population as much as possible, but keep in mind this is a secure area. yes, they do get access to phone calls, not as frequently as inmates in the general population though. >> okay, thank you, i yield back. >> thank you. at this point the chair
recognizes congresswoman brenda lawrence for five minutes. >> thank you. >> thank you. hello. >> congresswoman lawrence, i want to say, you may-- it looks like you are logged in twice. >> oh. okay. so i will-- now it looks like you're logged in once, but we can't hear you. >> so i'm very special i have
to be on here twice. >> that's sounding-- >> may i start now? >> you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you so much. i want to say thank you, first of all, to my chairman cartwright for yielding and working with you as a second term member of cjs andened your leadership is an honor for me. i want you to know that i served as the co-chair of the i can woman's caucus and i want to talk to you about the issue faced by too many female inmates. an i cord-- according to one such, danbury, the minimum security familiar the camp 34 of 50 inmates tested positive for covid. according to other records, there was a lack of hand soap in the women's bathroom even though c.d.c. guidelines specifically stressed the need
to constantly wash your hands and in some incident, female inmates were rushed to other makeshift sleeping areas often without notice forcing them to leave behind critical medical and feminine hygiene products. so, director, i find this report to be incredibly disappointing. in the midst of a global pandemic, can you explain why many female inmates are not given access to basic female hygiene products? >> congresswoman i will also say that i find that unacceptable and i find it hard to believe. and if it happened, then i would like to know when and where so i can do something about it. i will also say that we've had many reports of things like that. as i stated in my comments, are often mischaracterized,
exaggerated. what we've done to counter that, i have implemented these teams to go unannounced and in cases such as that, and in some facilities i've done high level assistant directors unannounced to put their eyes on these things because we take them seriously. i absolutely don't expect that to occur in one of our facilities. there's ample soap and water and ample supplies and feminine hygiene products. and there are times that my dispenser is out, and i need to remind them that they have to ask for them. i have heard and it's unacceptable, but i don't believe to the level where people didn't have them. >> okay, are you familiar with the camp, correct? >> the facility called the camp? >> yes, i was regional
director. i've visited that facility and familiar with it. >> is it true that 34 out of 50 inmates tested positive. >> i don't have the information for that exact facility, but i have no reason to doubt your numbers, especially if you got them off our website which are updated daily and we have had outbreaks at different places. i know that danbury was effected early on and it was very possible, but i do not know and cannot confirm with the exact numbers, i'll follow up with you. >> the couple things i want followed up on as well. the covid passage of women allegedly relaced in a man's visiting room and did not receive the over counter medication to assist with fever and body aches, not only were the women forced to sleep under brutal circumstances, they were not provided the basic necessities to treat these symptoms.
i need to know because i have visited prisons. and i have been told that because of the budget that each facility is given the same budget and so because female products cost more, women are not given the adequate amounts and i would appreciate -- so is this report -- and i will get you the report in case you haven't seen it -- a pregnant inmate shared the story of a burning mate that developed a cough yet you know prison was not able to quickly respond with testing living in these populated conditions. were pregnant inmates granted priorities status for consideration of home
confinement? >> congresswoman, first of all, i would like to follow up with you and get that information because what i want to know about. your other question, yes, they were. and pregnant females when covid hits and we've learned more about it, we made sure we had am ample place and to get them out as quickly as possible and again taking into account i still have to follow the rules and law in public safety. so at the current time there's only 15 pregnant females of the bureau of prisons and seven are in custody in our facilities and it's because they don't meet the criteria to go out to the community. otherwise i would have already placed them there. yes, they are given ample consideration and we do everything we can to get them into the community and place them. >> thank you, i'll yield back. >> i thank you, congresswoman. we're going to start a second round.
we will be called to vote probably within 20 or so minutes so we'll get as much of the second round in as we can, before we go to vote. i'll recognize myself for another five minutes of questions. director, i became a congressman in january of 2013. in february of 2013 eric williams was killed. he was a corrections officer 34 yeast old at usp canaan in pennsylvania. he was patrolling on his own in usp canaan and he was jumped by a vicious, violent criminal by the name of jessie canui. he jumped him, he had a schiff and he stabbed eric williams over 200 times and eric
williams died. i dare say, you have got to know don williams, eric's father since then, and you're very familiar with this whole story, but it happened in my back yard when i was a brand new congressman and it shocked me that eric williams was made to patrol on his own and there was no-- absolutely no doubt in my mind that if he had had a partner patrolling with him that never would have happened. so this question of augmentation of using statistics to talk about the correctional officer to inmate ratio has come up. and it's been a thorn in the side of the whole system, the whole time that i've been in congress. you mentioned it. you mentioned your commitment at the top of this hearing, you mentioned your commitment to increasing that correctional officer to inmate ratio, which
is clearly the answer for tragedies like that. would you tell us exactly what you have in mind? what is your plan and how can we be assured that you're not going to include psychologists and art teachers in your statistics? >> thank you, chairman. i am very familiar with the eric williams story and i certainly had the honor to meet will williams and get to to him when i was a regional director there. i was a warden in a high security penitentury when that happens and it certainly hits home and that stuff bothers me. and i told you when we're working on this, i am committed to addressing those issues. i have to explain and i know you're familiar with the agency. augmentation has always been a part and always will be of the
bureau of prisons and that's what allows us to actually function in a time like covid. the key there is overreliance and and i certainly agree with you, congressman using other staff and correctional posts is not a good idea when we over rely on it. we've started the hiring and 100% committed to staffing. what makes that difference, it sounds like common sense, we did something different. i shut down all internal collections and that came with scrutiny and we're holding the promotions up and we can't have it both ways. and focus on the resources to fill the 100% vacancies. obviously more staff in those units and prisons makes us after. that's the number one commitment. the other thing we're willing to do and we started doing and you may see it in the doa
audit. we've been scrutinized and we look at the capacity of each facility and make sure we have the appropriate number of staff at each security by mission, by operations to make sure that we can adequately program, but keep people safe. and that sounds very basic, but it's difficult to do and our staffing guidelines are somewhat antiquated and we've begun that process. so my commitment going forward, mr. chairman, is that we're going to do everything possible to make sure that incidents like that don't happen again and that we put the appropriate number of staff-- i look forward to working with the department and we appreciate the support from this committee in providing. >> well, it's not just for the protection of the correctional officers, it's also for the safety of the inmates. what i will ask you is will you make the commitment to share with me and this committee,
this subcommittee, the actual co numbers, leaving out the other noncorrectional officers, share those co numbers as compared to the inmate population? >> okay. so right now, congressman, i told you we have a little over 37 -- i was talking in approximates because these change. >> i don't mean right now, but every couple of months going forward so we can work together on the project. >> absolutely. right now 13,500 correctional officers and 1200 vacancies, yes, i will share those. >> thank you, i'm going to recognize ranking member for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. yes, director, i know that the bureau of prisons facilities
offer a wide range of programs to serve their inmates, many of which have been made under the first step act and then have demonstrated that they reduced recidivism. they include literacy programs, job training, residential drug abuse programs, anger management and mental health treatment. my question is can the bureau of prisons guarantee that no inmates, programs or treatments will be interrupted or will be discontinued or diminished as a result of complying with the executive order that i mentioned about with the closures? >> congressman, if i understand you and i heard you correctly, i can't guarantee that, sir, not for the reasons you said though. in the normal course of running
a prison we often run into issues where we have to stop programming. as i stated earlier, covid was an example where we have crisis and it does affect it. what i can do is commit to you we're going to have the first setback and inmates with the opportunity to have the time and-- we think we keep them in, security is half of our mission, but reentry and providing those programs is just as important so we're committed to doing that, yes, sir. >> so there could be some programs or treatment that would be interrupted if this executive order, when it's put into place? >> no, sir, i can't directly related it to the executive order because i don't believe-- if i'm understanding your question, that doesn't have anything to do with the ability of us to provide programs. >> yeah, well i'm just-- i guess my question is, if they have to be transferred, then
there will be interruption with some of these programs and so that's what i was referring to. >> okay. yes, sir, i understand now. yes, sir, obviously in the course of any transfers we do interrupt programs and one thing we try to mitigate across the board is to make sure that we have system programming throughout so if an inmate transfers from one location to another, that he can resume his programming at the other place and we try to do that as much as possible. our goal is for them to successfully complete programs, so that is always -- we've even made adjustments so an inmate could finish a program because that's our goal is to get them to complete these programs. >> yeah, okay. and bear in mind, i understand that i think there is a role for private prisons, just like there's a role-- i mean, we also need to have
this-- the prison there's a partnership there where that there's room for both and, but it's not uncommon, as you know, to hear people say that contract operated facilities are less save than bureau of prisons managed facilities, but is it-- isn't it true that the 2016 office of inspector general report on bureau of prisons monitoring contracts prisons showed that privately managed facility that they ought to perform better in several key categories, including fewer suicides, fewer positive drug tests, fewer drug complications, less inmate sexual misconduct and just over all grievances, is that correct? >> congressman, i'm familiar
with what you're talking about. the first thing i'd like to point out, as silly as it sounds, it's like comparing apples and oranges. the inmates that we place in the private are low security criminal alien population with not a lot of disciplinary on them. they have short sentences. they're awaiting deportation in many cases, so they don't get a lot of our serious offenders. we keep those ourselves. and i will tell you also that we follow the guidance given, sir. we're required to poll the executive order. i will tell that you we have worked well with them. you mentioned partner, i will say that, we rely on that and we have in the past. so it's not my position to talk about whether or not they perform better or not. i will tell you this, they've met their contract and that means that they've performed with what we expect them to do within the statement of work. with that said, sir, we have to follow the executive orders and that's the best i can tell you
on that, and it with any decision that we've made, we don't think they're performing, i'm just doing what been told to do. >>, but you don't believe that the contract that you're unsafe. >> if i believe that the contract facilities are unsafe? is that the question, sir? i'm not-- . >> i'm sorry, i'm saying that you don't believe that any facilities that you're contracted with that you oversee, that they're unsafe places for the prisoners is that correct? >> no, sir, i don't believe that. they're meeting their obligations or we utilize them. they have to meet the standards or we won't use them. >> that's my question, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. the chair recognizes congressman ed case for five
minutes. >> thank you, chair. director, i'm still stuck on my prior line of questioning and trying to understand that further just so i can try to isolate what the actual issues are. you've previously said that roughly half of the correctional officers that design to be -- decline to be vaccinated even though i understand it, vaccine, 80,000 doses you testified were available, were made available first to the connectional officers, was that right, first of all? >> yes, congressman with one exception, they're made available to all of our staff, 100% of our staff unless they were on lead or something, it's been made available and for those who weren't available, they can request is at this point. >> good. i guess the point i'm making, you could have had with the available vaccinations to date,
you could have had 100% in your officers in they had decided to all take it, right? >> i don't know, congressman. i mean, i understand what you're saying that the simple math, but keep in mind that we have all staff. we have about 13,000 correctional officers, but i'm talking about all of our staff of 37,000 that have been offered. certainly if they accepted, you know we very well may be at 100%. >> i'm taking 37,000 and times by two, that's less than 80,000. in my understanding, virtually all of your correctional officers could have been vaccinated to date and yet didn't and so your answer when i asked you why not was, you said can they be compelled to
do it you said a, the interpretation of fda emergency versus permanent approval and you made mention of the collective bargaining agreements. let me tick off the collective bargaining agreements for discussion purposes. have there been discussions with the representatives of the collective bargaining units for the correctional officers about taking the vaccine? is that a subject much negotiation right now or are there conditions being placed on whether officers will or won't take it, for example? is there a disagreement over, you know, hazard pay or something like that? >> congressman, if i'm understanding your question, the answer to that is no. now, i will tell you that we've had informal discussions. we have opened up a line of communication with the union, but at this point we have not approached them formally because as i stated earlier, sir, i listen to the experts and that's in the case of the vaccinations, what my doctor,
my medical director tells me and his staff and of course, the legal side of the house and then there's the labor side. we've informally discussed this with the national union executives, informally, we're in constant discussion on it. >> so at this point it seems whether we like it or not we're in a voluntary situation and voluntarily you could have the discussions with the collective bargaining union representatives. let me cover the other side of this equation. do you have the sense that the-- what is your sense of why half of the correctional officers have not been vaccinated? that's much, much higher than any sense i have of the general population in terms of would you take it if you could? my understanding that's somewhere around three quarters, give or take. in any event, it doesn't matter, it's 50% versus higher i think you would say. so i'm asking the question, why
do you think that is? what kind of information are they being given about the benefits of vaccinations, especially in the context of the work environment where it is absolutely tangbly a risk to themselves, to their fellow officers and folks in these institutions? what do you think they're not taking this in higher numbers? what do you think you can do about it? >> well, congressman what i can do about it, what we continue to do. that we absolutely encourage it, we set the example. most of our leaders were the first to take it and again to go back to our relationship with the union. our union leadership is partnered with us to make that example and encourage it. >> and do you make that, this is the objective, public health
recommendations of taking a vaccination, this is the reality, is that out there in the field? >> yes, it is, congressman and i've also done video messages and we encourage it at every level, encourage them to take the vaccines, the one question that i can't answer, sir, when i think about it, it would be my opinion and that's irrelevant here because i can't make a recommendation to make personal choice whether or not they're going to be vaccinated and certainly i have an opinion on that, but i don't think it's appropriate to share it, i'll just tell you that i respect that of someone making that choice and i'll leave it at that. >> thank you, director. i would suggest that perhaps you could ask them to understand what more you-- if you haven't already, some systemic asking of them doesn't violate their privacy, they can answer. >> yes, sir. >> we are now going to move to
mr. pa lazzo for questions and i would ask that congressman keep to three minutes so we can get through the remaining members before we have impending votes and we don't have to adjourn and try to come back. remember, all members can submit written questions that will be transmitted to the witness and will be expected to be answered. the chair recognizes mr. palazzo. thank you, mr. chairman. i may be like some of the other members on this, a lot of this is new to me and i appreciate the director's patience with us in helping to explain and try answers to our questions. >> just sitting on the call, you know, i started having other questions. why were private prisons, what's the history behind the private prisons? what brought them into creation and do they specialize in a certain class like the criminal alien?
can you provide us with context, please? >> yeah, congressman, i would probably be stretching if i told you the history of why we use them. i'll tell you what i know from the last part of my career, when we started using them or if there were mandates to answer those questions. we have partnered with them at the peak of our population, 220,000. we absolutely needed their bed space and that's how this was utilized and why they maintained and we tend to send them the criminal aliens. >> they're usually 150 months sentence or less. they're not in for violent crimes at seems times like that. and that's the best that i can tell you, we relied on their space at one point and we don't need it now. >> how many of these people are actually in private prisons,
how many inmates, federal prisons. >> today, sir, 13,000, the number changes daily. >> and in these private facilities, were they constructed with private dollars or these dollars with the federal government provides? what will happen to those facilities if the contracts are not extended and what also will happen with the prisoners? where will they go? >> okay, congressman, so the inmates obviously we will take back into our custody and spread them out through our capacity as appropriate. as far as answering what happens to the prison, number one, there's only one prison that we own that wasn't private and we took it back over and we turned it down for structure reasons and that's in our inventory. that's our facility. as far as the other facilities, the 10 that we currently have, they belong to the private, sir and i won't ask what they're
used for, you'll have to ask the vendors about that. they're not our facilities, we just have them house our inmates. >> i appreciate that and i know the government from time to time identifies things to privatize because sometimes they can save the taxpayer dollars and these tight and soon to be tighter fiscal times, we need to make sure that we're keeping costs low and quality of services high. so, again, director, thank you very much. >> thank you. and the chair recognizes mr. ruppersberger for three minutes. >> hello. >> okay. do you hear me? i'm on-- >> okay, great, good. show time. >> i want to get back to the question of safety standards in prison. high rates of respiratory and coronary conditions are factors that can exacerbate the spread
of covid-19 among the two plus million people incarcerated in american jails, prisons and correctional facilities. now, policies that have had potential to curb the spread of the disease include the early release of prisoners, unlikely to pose a risk of reoffending, implementing strong control practices and widespread testing. >> now, health and safety in prison is the key to maintaining health in prison populations, and also, health staff in the prisons. in baltimore, part of my district, a class action lawsuit has been filed over the rapid rate of infection and prisoners are saying they're not being kept safe more given the cleaning products necessary to keep themselves safe. so i have two questions,
basically, how many of your facilities do you believe meet standards or for safe ventilation and secondly, is your medical staffing and standards for medical care of residents, merit all the current needs where there's likely to be continued gaps in services? and if not, what are those needs? >> congressman, i think the easy answer to tell you that yes, we abide by the standards, you know, we undergo aca accreditation and that's a third party that comes to look at us. it's a stringent process. we have our own internal processes and we have the review of our facilities. and as far as the medical practices we have accreditations that they go through and we deal with the public health association and to answer the question, if
we're not up to standard we're pretty much told by someone or figured on our own, yes, in fact, that's something we'll commit to doing making sure we run a safe environment. as far as the ability to have someone have the safety net inside the prison, what we know about these things, we certainly look into them. i've heard many of these allegations and i assure you before we became director, there was no such thing unannounced inspections. i've done many of them. and most all of ours have that we're doing what we're supposed to. >> my last question, the fact that you have prison guards that refuse to take a test and you don't have the authority to say that's part of your employment, when in fact by not taking a test, these prison guards can infect, you know,
prisoners who have to be in that prison, from covid. to me that's very difficult. we've got to find a way to work around it. for whatever reasons they have for not-- for not taking the test, we cannot allow that point of view to affect the health, safety and welfare of those prisoners and that really, we've got to focus on that again. i'm just bringing it up for emphasis, i yield back. >> the emphasis is noted and appreciated. and the chair recognizes congressman ben klein for three minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'll be brief. i wanted to ask about the majority of bop inmates and contractor operated facilities who are sentenced criminal aliens. what is happening to them upon
the closure of these facilities? are they just being-- is there any effort to after they're finished with their sentence to deport them or what kind of consideration is being given to where they're being transferred? >> yes, congressman, very good question. the determination whether or not they've been deported, ice makes that determination, we have an immigration hearing program, we have, i believe, 24 side, we work in close coordination with ice. they hold the hearings and they make the actual determination whether or not, to answer the first part of your question, those inmates are currently in the privates closing, they will be absorbed back into our facilities and we'll do our best to keep them and certainly in the areas somewhat where they were, but it will be on the best ability and needs of
the agency though. >> all right. can you outline for me, going back to my original questions about home confinement, some of the factors that you consider as you determine whether to send to home confinement? >> yes, sir, i can. there's a bit of a list here, so, please cut me off if you think i'm going-- >> is severity of the offense one of them? >> there's four hard criteria, congressman. the easiest thing to tell you, you cannot have a primary violence, sex offense, terrorism or have a detainer, those are nondiscretionary, if you fit into one of those categories we're not putting you out because public safety is also in there. we take that very serious. >> prior record? >> sir? >> is prior record considered? >> prior record, yes, sir. well, discipline history inside is looked at and there are
several others, i call them discretionary because we have looked at those and we have a committee at times that review them and we make sure that we are maximizing the use, and keeping in public health, public safety, as well as the inmate safety. >> what about liberation status-- >> if you have a detainer, you can't go home confinement. >> okay, thank you, i don't have any other questions. i appreciate your help with that. >> sure. one follow-up for mr. klein's question, he mentioned prior record, i think what he meant was suppose you're in for a nonviolent marijuana offense, but in the past you have had a violent offense on your rap sheet that you got convicted of. is that considered? >> congressman the answer to that is yes, because we look at each individual and assess them and the totality of the circumstance. all of that is taken into
consideration. and through that we'd reach out through the department of justice to the u.s. attorney's office, get their input. follow up on that, yes, it's looked at and taken into consideration and the u.s. attorney's office also had the ability to provide information on whether or not they support releasing that individual. >> thank you, thank you. recognize mr. trone for three i minutes. >> okay. thank you, mr. chairman. let's talk about the first step act, i should say step in the right direction. totally bipartisan, very good work done by congress and the president. and this fiscal '20, congress had 25 million for implication, and in fiscal 2021, 400.
and part of it required an independent review commission, so, that report, that report came out just recently in december. the report found, and i quote, even a full return to pre-covid bop programming levels will not be sufficient to make available the, quote, evidence-based recidivism programs for all eligible prisoners in bureau custody by january '22 when it was required, the legislation. the bureau requires significant appropriations to muster the personnel and programming access necessary to achieve that goal. so what kind of programming and how much additional funding will be required for all
eligible prisoners in the bureau's custody, training, class, drill treatment that are all required by the fsa? >> yes, congressman, thank you. certainly, we appreciate the 409 million dollars provided by this committee in our budget and we are going to put it to good use. with some of the things we've mentioned we have over 80 evidence-based recidivism reducing programs. >> even with covid we have 50,000 inmates enrolled in those productive activities and many have completion. i read the report i was shocked about the ric's recommendation
because we work closely with them. we're expanding capacity and utilizing funds provided by congress to ensure that we hire up as part of our hiring, a lot of those were first step back positions to expand the programs you mentioned, vocational, career technical education and things of that nature. >> we're running out of time. and we've got nine months to get this completed in the first step back. the bipartisan peace legislation required and the ric said it's not going to happen at the current rate. what we need to help you implement the first step back as congress and president trump initiated. thank you. >> yes, sir, we look forward to working with the department to assure we have the resources to
implement it. >> all right, the chair recognizes mr. garcia for me minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director carvajal, thank you, i empathize with you and for you for sitting in a body of legislators asking why you're not mandating a regulation you have no control over. ... i would like to ask for some data if we just made it to the record. the first is to my first question earlier, a metric of
percentage of death rate within both the privately operated and also b.o.p. operated facilities. and then the second if we can get a count of victim deaths as a result of early release prisoners in the midst of the pandemic. i think those metrics, i know are not in front of you but should be attainable if we can get those added to the record as part of your testimony that would be fantastic. does that sound doable? >> yes. i'm not sure what it would take to get those but i will certainly follow up and with your office and let you know that we can either provide them to you or why we cannot. >> thank you, sir. and then i will just end with a question. how is correctional officer and in staff retention and recruiting right now? and if it is suffering or depressed in any way what can we in this body here is special in
this subcommittee do to help you attract and retain talent? >> thank you very much for the question, congressman, because that's one of our biggest challenges. that's what we're doing with our hiring initiative. i mentioned staff retention also. i'm happy to say even through covid last year as tough as that was we hired over 3800 staff but we lost as many. so again it bounces up. we are working on retention and trying to do things to improve safety, make sure staff know we are committed to doing that. i think, congressman, the biggest thing we can get from this body and really all of the moves of congress is positive support. certainly members, people that live in your constituency, tell them we are hiring. tell them we're hiring. i have jobs available. i see millions the people out of work and we are hiring right now and with great jobs and it's a great way, public service, and our slogan come work on the inside.
that's what we can use from you. we appreciate the resources that this committee has provided. we certainly put them to good use but i think helping us positive message in the community that we are not a broken organization, we certainly could use improvement. i'm committed to doing that but we have jobs available right now. thank you. >> thank you, sir, and i'm committed to supporting and that effort as well. i yield back. >> thank you. and members, that concludes our second round and we don't want to stop there and i'm going to remind all the members that we have provided you an e-mail address which you can use to submit written questions to director carvajal, and he has evidenced a a willingness to o ahead and answer those. director carvajal, , we're going to take your promises at face value, in that light, in that
spirit look forward to working with you to keep us posted. we need to know these answers to properly fund the bureau of prisons of make sure you have the tools you need to carry out your mission and ethical, humane and practical way that the american people expect. so thank you for joining us. this is the end of the hearing. this hearing is adjourned. thank you all very much. >> we will need this program. you can continue watching it on our website c-span.org. live coverage now as foreign policy experts testified before house foreign affairs subcommittee on u.s. policy toward china, north korea and other indo-pacific countries. this is live coverage on c-span2. >> [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] this morning a number of foreign policy expert are offering testimony on u.s. policy toward china, north korea and other indo-pacific countries. this taking place before a house for the fair subcommittee. this was set to start at ten eastern this morning. obviously running a little behind. live coverage when it gets underway here on c-span2.
>> report on house action history, house passes scaled-back immigration measures as juice piece of wins. they write they has been their bills that would seemil like a ticket to across idea of what a washington thorniest issues but not lately. with the gop seizing on the going migration crisis at the southern border even the measure to offer legal protections for farm workers in the group known have become intensely partisan. the bills which taken together would offer a chance at citizenship for roughly
3 million undocumented immigrants have lived in the u.s. for years did pick up some gop support, nine republicans joined democrats to pass the dream and promise act which will provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the u.s. as children. r modernization act with 30 republicans crossing party lines to support the legislation, while one democrat, mein representative jared golden voted no. -- maine representative jared golden voted no. it would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly one million farmworkers and broadly expand the h2 way temporary agriculture -- h2h -- h2a immigration. one member of the house on the democratic side, rowel rees on
dust in cap -- raul ruiz -- talked about these before the voting. [video clip] >> we are at the cusp of voting on two bills that i know will make an incredible positive difference for our nation. i know that personally. you see, due to a terrible tragedy in my family, i was brought to the united states from mexico as a baby. my parents were farmworkers. they worked tirelessly day in and day out with callused hands and tired back, with minimal rest, to give me and their children opportunities that they never had. farmworkers like my parents and like many of my constituents back >> we will do this program here and y