La comisionada residente Jenniffer González. (GFR Media)
Jenniffer González. (GFR Media)

Washington - Washington Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González asked the U.S. General Attorney William Barr to cease transferring all federal inmates to the Island after authorities transferred 54 inmates - seven of whom tested positive for COVID-19 - without consulting nor notifying with the Chief Judge, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Marshal.

"In light of the preceding I ask that, in accordance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, you cease transferring all federal inmates to the District of Puerto Rico until it is medically safe to do so. The Chief Judge, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshal all concur that it is viable and will not affect the operations of MDC Guaynabo," reads part of the letter González sent to U.S. Attorney William Barr, Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal, and U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington.

El Nuevo Día reported yesterday that federal authorities on the island were surprised by the transfer of inmates without prior notice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judge Gustavo Gelpí, of the San Juan Federal Court, had raised the alarm about the transfer of 54 federal inmates to the Guaynabo Metropolitan Detention Center without consulting the court or U.S. District Attorney Stephen Muldrow or U.S. Marshal for the District of Puerto Rico Wilmer Ocasio. According to the commissioner, when Ocasio was notified of the transfer, he “voiced his objection because of the health and safety concerns” at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

González said transferring inmates without consultation affects the "aggressive and effective pandemic plan" to contain the spread of COVID-19 implemented by Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced.

With the seven federal inmates recently transferred to Puerto Rico, there are now 10 inmates who have tested positive for the virus on the island. Judge Gelpí said that those who have tested positive are newcomers, who first go through an isolation area for 14 days.

Previously, in El Nuevo Día, Gelpí added that "the problem is that no one here requested the transfer of this group of inmates. There are about 40 who arrived about a week ago, who are awaiting sentence, but we are not holding hearings. The court is closed and hearings are being held on VTC."

Other twenty-seven prisons in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) have more COVID-19 cases than the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Seagoville FCI had 1,072 infected inmates until yesterday, followed by Beaumont with 458, Elkton with 350, and Butner Low with 339.

Of the total 129,268 federal inmates across the United States, there are currently 3,591 COVID-19 infected and 315 prison employees.

Since the emergency began, the number of infected people has been higher, since 5,434 inmates, and 631 employees have already recovered.

So far, 97 inmates and one employee are known to have died as a result of COVID-19.