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Chairman Nadler Remarks for Virtual Roundtable on COVID-19 in Prisons & Jails

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks, as prepared, during a Democratic virtual roundtable onthe Trump Administration’s inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of COVID-19 in prisons and jails:

“It is critical that Members of this Committee gather together today, albeit virtually instead of in person, to discuss the urgent matter of COVID-19 in our country’s prisons and jails. Many Members have worked diligently to bring attention to this issue, to engage in oversight of the government’s woefully inadequate response, and to propose legislation to address it.

“The Committee has engaged in oversight concerning this issue at the federal, state, and local levels. Close to my district, I have taken a particular interest in the disturbing situations at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and the outbreak of COVID-19 among inmates and staff at Rikers Island.

“I especially want to recognize the efforts of the Congressional Black Caucus, under the leadership of its Chair, Karen Bass, in focusing on this issue and holding virtual town halls to discuss it, one of which included the participation of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I have also worked with Representative Bass, in her capacity as Chair of the Crime Subcommittee, to write to the Justice Department on several occasions to urge aggressive action with respect to prisoners held in the Bureau of Prisons and detainees held by the Marshals Service. Unfortunately, the Attorney General has been slow to act, not taking the necessary action to use to an appropriate degree the expanded home confinement authority granted to him under the CARES Act, which was enacted in March. In fact, the sparing use of this authority has been replete with confusing policy changes and resulting heartache for families of prisoners who are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

“That is why we included new authorities in the Heroes Act, recently passed by the House.To address the situation in federal prisons, we included the ‘Emergency Community Supervision Act’ authored by our colleague Representative Hakeem Jeffries, to direct the release of vulnerable prisoners who do not pose a risk of harming others to community supervision, in addition to other changes to federal law, such as the expansion of elder release, during this emergency period.

“The Heroes Act also includes a bill I introduced, called the ‘Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act,’ to help address this crisis in state and local prisons and jails. This measure would utilize grant funding to incentivize the release of particularly vulnerable prisoners who are not a risk of harming others and to fund prevention and treatment of COVID-19 in prisons and jails.

“We have been active legislatively, and we will continue to be vigilant in conducting oversight over what is going on in our prisons and jails across the United States.

“Therefore, I look forward to hearing from our guest panelists today and the discussion about how we may do more to address this issue in the future.”

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