“Pandemic Act” to stop federal inmate transfer

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced Thursday an inmate at the United States Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County tested positive for the coronavirus.

It’s the first in Pennsylvania. It’s unknown if that inmate was transferred to Canaan from another federal prison. Congressman Fred Keller has been working to stop that from happening.

Right now, if inmates are transferred, they are being isolated for 14 days as a precaution. Congressman Keller introduced a bill on Tuesday that would halt the transfer process.

“We’re trying to mitigate this and that means limit moving the virus around,” Keller said.

Congressman Keller continues to fight to have the federal bureau of prisons to halt the movement of federal inmates from facility to facility across the country.

“When we got word they were still going to move some people they started passing the buck and ultimately blamed it on the Marshals service and the courts,” Keller said.

On Tuesday, Keller, who holds the 12th Congressional District in Pennsylvania, introduced the Pandemic Act a bipartisan bill.

He says it will require the Bureau of Prisons to keep all prisoners where they are at to help curb the spread of COVID-19 while protecting communities surrounding federal prisons and correctional officers who work with the inmates.

“It just speaks to the facts that this is just part of the swamp that needs to be drained as far as bureaucrats making decisions and not taking into account, you know, people,” Keller said.

Since the outbreak, 75 prisoners in the country have tested positive for the coronavirus, including an inmate in Wayne County. Two weeks ago, 32 prisoners were moved to Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood near Lewisburg. One inmate needed testing. That result was negative.

“If the inmates are that severe, that they need to be hospitalized, it is likely they will come out of the prison and into one of our local hospitals. So there again, we do not want to be taxing their resources,” Keller said.

Keller says it may be a month before the bill is passed. Calling on the Bureau of Prisons and the Justice Department, particularly the U.S. Marshals Service, to use its power.

“I just think somebody needs to tell the Bureau of Prisons to wise up and stop moving prisoners,” Keller said.

There are three federal prisons in Congressman Keller’s district: Allenwood, Lewisburg, and Canaan. His Pandemic Act bill has a growing list of sponsors including Democrat Matt Cartwright and Republican Glenn Thompson who represents the 15th Congressional District.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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