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Rep. Bass, Chairman Nadler Introduces Bill to Help State and Local Prisons Test & Treat COVID-19

March 27, 2020
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the COVID–19 Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020. The legislation would allocate funds to state and local governments to provide testing and treatment for COVID-19 to individuals in correctional facilities. This legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Chair, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), House Democratic Caucus Chairman.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler: "I am pleased that we have voted in a bipartisan fashion to provide much needed relief to hospitals, healthcare workers, business owners, and hardworking Americans across the country as we all navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we must do even more to address this crisis. The risk factors for COVID-19 spreading in prisons and jails are abundantly clear - close quarters, a large number of individuals who are medically vulnerable, and a limited availability of treatment.  We must give states and local governments critical funding assistance to prevent the spread of this disease in these facilities, to test and treat inmates and those working in prisons, and to promote the reduction in the populations of prisons and jails so that fewer people are put at risk.  These steps are urgently needed and are the right thing to do."

Subcommittee Chair Bass: "Congress must do all we can to assist state and local governments as they combat this disease. That includes allocating funds to provide testing and treatment for COVID-19 in correctional facilities. On top of that, those who are highly susceptible to COVID-19 like pregnant women, people over age 55, or those with serious chronic medical condition who pose a low risk to the public should be immediately released to home confinement. This is a matter of public health. I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this emergency response, which will save lives."

Representative Jeffries: "Our nation's jails and prisons are on the verge of catastrophe since the condition of confinement makes impossible the social distancing needed to slow the spread of COVID-19. With the passage of the CARES Act, Congress took a significant step in providing the resources needed to combat the Coronavirus pandemic. However, we also must take swift action to protect the safety, health and well-being of those incarcerated as well as those working in the prison system, and the legislation we introduced today provides the resources state and local prisons need to test and treat COVID-19."

The COVID–19 Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020 would:

  • Provide funds to states and local prisons to test and treat COVID-19 for all arrestees, detainees, and inmates.
  • Provide funds for COVID–19 testing for correctional facility staff, volunteers, visitors, attorneys, court personnel that have contact with detainees and inmates, law enforcement officers who transport detainees and inmates, and personnel outside the correctional facility who provide medical treatment to detainees and inmates.
  • Incentivize states to adopt programs that facilitate the reduction in the number of arrestees, detainees, and inmates by curtailing booking and in-facility processing for individuals who have committed technical parole or probation violations and provide transition and reentry support services to individuals released. 
  • Authorizes a new grant program to adopt cite-and-release procedures for individuals who are suspected of committing misdemeanor and felony offenses and who do not pose a risk of serious danger to the community.
  • Authorizes $1,000,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to implement these programs.

Text of the legislation is available here.

A section by section document is available here.