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Resident commissioner complains about transfer of federal inmates to Guaynabo Detention Center

By John McPhaul


Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón has sent a letter to several federal officials over the transfer of some inmates from the mainland United States to the Guaynabo Metropolitan Detention Center, where at the moment officials report that 10 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“I join the serious concerns of federal officials on the island who were appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate,” Gonzalez Colón said in a written statement. “These are the representatives of the highest-ranking Federal Judicial and Executive Branch in Puerto Rico; however, this fact was not taken into account to consult on the transfer of prisoners to the island, hindering the COVID-19 control plans in the prisons that have been shown to be successful.”

González Colón sent letters to United States Attorney General William Barr, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, Michael Carvajal, and the director of the U.S. Marshals, Donald Washington.

In the letter, the congresswoman expressed her concern about the transfer of 54 inmates to the Guaynabo Detention Center, despite the objection of federal officials in Puerto Rico to the chief judge of the United States District Court, Gustavo Gelpí, the head of the federal prosecutor’s office in Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow, and the United States Sheriff for the District of Puerto Rico, Wilmer Ocasio.

González Colón said that due to this situation, federal bailiffs and Detention Center employees were sent into isolation in their residences because of contact with infected inmates.

“This directly affects the aggressive pandemic control plan that the local authorities had developed on the island, achieving zero contagion in the Detention Center,” the resident commissioner said. “There were no court orders to bring federal prisoners to Puerto Rico since all sentencing procedures are currently carried out by videoconference, as authorized by Congress in the CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security] Act. Furthermore, the United States District Court has been closed by order of the Chief Judge since the end of March and will not reopen for in-person criminal hearings until at least September 7.”

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