Thursday, October, 8, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. UPDATE: WELCH, WV (WVNS) — The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) responded to concerns about positive COVID-19 cases at FCI McDowell.
According to the BOP, there are currently two inmates and one staff member with COVID-19 at FCI McDowell. Four additional staff members recovered from COVID-19. The two positive inmates were also placed in medical isolation and separated from the rest of the inmate population.
The BOP said it is carefully monitoring the spread of COVID-19 throughout all of its facilities, including FCI McDowell. Regarding the transfer of inmates, the BOP said under federal law, it is required to accept inmates awaiting trial and newly-convicted inmates. The BOP claimed it has no authority to refuse inmates brought to the facility by U.S. Marshals.
All newly admitted inmates are reportedly screened and their temperatures are checked. They are also placed in quarantine when they arrive.
Wednesday, October, 7, 2020 ORIGINAL STORY: WELCH, WV (WVNS) — A union leader is sounding the alarm, saying he and other people tested positive for COVID-19 at a federal prison in McDowell County.
Brian Lucas, who serves as union leader for American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 480, said he and around 200 correctional officers and staff members are dealing with positive coronavirus cases at the Federal Correctional Institution in Welch.
During the week of Monday, September 21, 2020, Lucas said around 100 inmates were transferred from out-of-state jails to FCI McDowell by U.S. Marshals.
“They were being sent to us to actually be holdovers,” Lucas explained. “They’re actual inmates that are sentenced to serve a federal sentence.”
Where these particular inmates came from is concerning, according to Lucas. He explained the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs FCI McDowell, has procedures in place to quarantine officers, staffers, and prisoners in case of a possible COVID-19 outbreak.
“Any time we transfer our inmates, they have to have a negative test,” Lucas said. “They are quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.”
According to him, these 100 prisoners are from jails that are not run by the federal government, which do not follow the same protocols.
“I knew it was a matter of time as soon as we started getting them and processing them and doing testing on the inmates… We just started having our numbers increase with positive cases.”
From March to mid-September, Lucas said there were no inmate cases and a few non-work related cases from staff members not spread within the institution; however, since those inmates arrived, he told us a few positive cases were reported among inmates, staff members, and correctional officers, including him.
“I’m currently quarantined here at my house,” Lucas said. “My kids are also quarantined. They’re out of school, out of their sports, missing soccer tournaments, and so on.”
While Lucas could not comment on what the Federal Bureau of Prisons is doing to combat these developments, he is waiting for help from the offices of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV).
59News is waiting for responses from both the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.