Congresswoman Gets Response to Her Inquiry on BOP’s Capacity to Evacuate Inmates in Event of Natural Disasters
Press Release
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
November 13, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) response to her letter asking whether the agency has the capacity and planning in place to move and relocate inmates from facilities facing severe damage from flooding, hurricanes or other natural disasters.  Norton was concerned after the BOP facility in Beaumont, TX, which houses 48 D.C. inmates, was not evacuated during Hurricane Harvey.  Her office had received reports from constituents that families could not contact their loved ones housed at the Beaumont facility.  In its letter to Norton, BOP responded that “the Bureau mandates detailed contingency plans for natural disasters, as well as other emergency situations such a bomb threats, institution fires, or escapes.  Each of the 122 federal prisons has a specific plan that is drafted to ensure the safety of the public, staff, and inmates.  Each facility tests these plans annually by conducting a mock exercise including testing the recall system that notifies staff to report to the institution in the event of an emergency.”

She will meet soon with new BOP Director Mark Inch to discuss ongoing efforts to ensure the best policies for District of Columbia Code felons, the only local felons housed by BOP.  Norton also recently wrote to BOP requesting that it take action on four specific policies: eliminate or significantly reduce the fee that residents of Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs), or halfway houses, must pay to offset the cost of being housed; change the policy limiting physical contact during a visitation, particularly between a parent and young child, from only the beginning and closing of the visitation; change the visitor dress code; and provide all inmates with the opportunity to receive computer training.

“The BOP response on its evacuation policies was reassuring,” Norton said.  “I look forward to meeting with Director Inch to discuss both the unique and other challenges facing D.C. inmates at BOP facilities, including the specific issues I raised in my recent letters.”

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