New bill to improve disaster response and recovery plans in prisons introduced

New bill to improve disaster response and recovery plans in prisons introduced
Disaster response bill for prisons. (Source: KLTV)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KFVS) - U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced legislation that would ensure prison disaster response and recovery plans protect the health, safety and civil rights of incarcerated individuals during a presidential disaster declaration.

This legislation follows reports of health and safety violations within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and state prisons during recent major disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

Correctional facilities must be fully prepared to provide safe conditions during all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the many injustices exposed by this deadly pandemic is the fact that incarcerated individuals are particularly vulnerable during major disasters since they rely on staff to provide necessities and decide whether to evacuate to a safer location,” Duckworth said. “I’m introducing this bill today to help make sure that federal and state correctional agencies appropriately prioritize the health and safety of incarcerated individuals and staff during major disasters by better assessing damages sustained from these disasters, taking corrective actions to resolve preparedness gaps and seeking input from professionals with emergency management and health backgrounds, as well as formerly incarcerated individuals.”

The Correctional Facility Disaster Preparedness Act would:

  • Strengthen oversight by requiring the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to provide an annual damage assessment report to Congress after a presidential disaster declaration and its effects on Federal inmates' health and safety, as well as corrective actions to resolve preparedness gaps.
  • Expand the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Advisory Board membership by permanently appointing three new members: (1) a formerly incarcerated individual, (2) an emergency coordinator and (3) a public health expert with an educational and professional background working with communicable diseases to evaluate emergency preparedness and correctional policies.
  • Require the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Advisory Board to update its emergency preparedness training resources and publish a report examining the extent to which State and local correctional facilities implement and improve emergency procedures during a presidential disaster declaration.

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