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Lawmakers Call for Probe Into Deadly Federal Prison


On Thursday, three members of Congress referred to as for a direct federal investigation into violence and abuse on the U.S. penitentiary in Thomson, Illinois, prompted by reporting by The Marshall Project and NPR.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Cheri Bustos, all Democrats from Illinois, wrote in a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that it was “imperative” he look into allegations that workers purposefully housed prisoners with folks they knew could be violent, and subjected them to painful restraints for hours or generally days.

“If these reports prove accurate, they describe conduct that would almost certainly contravene numerous [Bureau of Prisons] policies, as well as infringing the civil rights of individuals in BOP custody and possibly violating federal criminal statutes,” wrote the lawmakers, who referred to as the report “disturbing.” Lawmakers additionally requested Horowitz to look into the position staffing shortages have performed in situations at Thomson, which have been a significant issue since its opening.

Five males have been killed at Thomson since 2019, making the power one of many deadliest federal prisons within the nation. On prime of the risk from different prisoners, dozens of incarcerated folks at Thomson stated they confronted frequent abuse by the hands of guards. Many stated in letters, lawsuits and interviews that they have been shackled in cuffs so tight they left scars, and infrequently went with out meals, water or a rest room.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons stated in an emailed assertion that he couldn’t touch upon particular person instances or pending lawsuits, however that allegations of misconduct have been “taken seriously” and referred to the Inspector General for investigation.

Sen. Durbin can even quickly lead a congressional listening to on “the continued overuse of solitary confinement and restricted housing in BOP, including at USP Thomson,” based on an e-mail from his spokesperson. Data supplied by his workplace exhibits 7.8% of federal prisoners are at present in restricted housing.

The Thomson facility was constructed by the Illinois state jail system however later purchased by the Justice Department on the urging of Durbin, Duckworth, Bustos and different lawmakers. They stated the brand new penitentiary would ease harmful overcrowding in different federal prisons and be an financial boon for the area. Those members of Congress later raised considerations about persistent understaffing on the facility and pushed for retention bonuses for employees.

Thomson is residence to the “Special Management Unit,” a infamous jail program meant to accommodate among the system’s most harmful and unstable folks — although many have ended up there who don’t match that description. The unit was beforehand housed on the penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. A 2016 investigation by The Marshall Project and NPR discovered the unit was tormented by frequent assaults, sparked by locking two folks in a small cell for almost 24 hours a day, a apply often called double-celled solitary confinement. When prisoners tried to reject a harmful cellmate, many stated they have been locked in painful shackles till they relented.

In response to the 2016 tales, 37 civil rights teams referred to as on the Justice Department to launch a federal investigation. Then in 2018, the Bureau of Prisons closed the unit at Lewisburg, and moved it to Thomson. Dozens of males incarcerated at Thomson report that the identical issues and abuses adopted to the brand new facility.

The Bureau of Prisons has been beneath heightened strain and scrutiny after stories of sexual abuse, violence and different corruption. In January, company director Michael Carvajal introduced his resignation, after Sen. Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, referred to as for his firing. The Senate has additionally launched a brand new group, together with Sen. Durbin, targeted on growing oversight of federal prisons.

The Justice Department Inspector General is an impartial entity tasked with offering oversight of division applications, together with federal prisons, and investigating allegations in opposition to division workers.

In an e-mail, a Justice Department spokesperson stated the division was dedicated to investigating allegations of workers misconduct. “We will not hesitate to impose appropriate consequences for misconduct at all levels, including through criminal prosecution, as well through the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Office of the Inspector General,” the spokesperson wrote.

The Bureau of Prisons, an company of the Justice Department, responded in an e-mail from spokesperson Benjamin O’Cone that it “is fully cooperating on active investigations. As specific allegations of staff misconduct arise, they are referred for investigation.”

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