A BOP COVID-19 Overview

Learn how the Federal Bureau of Prisons is responding the COVID-19 threat.

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is carefully monitoring the COVID-19 virus. As with any type of emergency situation, we carefully assess how to best ensure the safety of staff, inmates and the public.

BOP COVID-19 Modified Operations Plan

BOP's Emergency Response

Every institution is like a small city and to cope with major emergencies or other significant interruptions of normal operations, they each have continuity of operations (COOP) plans that provide guidance to staff. These plans include information for dealing with a riot or fire, conducting mass evacuations in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, responding to a bomb threat, or managing other significant emergency conditions, such as with COVID-19.

While every emergency situation is different, and requires differing responses, these plans provide a blueprint that can be applied to almost any emergency situation. Typical emergency plans include information on notification of command staff, containment of the situation, notification of and coordination with local authorities, providing interim and follow up medical care, and other key issues. Flexibility is essential in implementing even the best-planned emergency responses.

Every facility's emergency plans are reviewed and updated each year and employees are required to review the plans annually. Training on many aspects of the emergency plans is conducted on a regular basis. The BOP's regional and central offices also have emergency response plans to assist them in supporting field operations in the event of a crisis. These plans include necessary contacts and liaison functions with other Federal, State, and local agencies.

BOP's COVID-19 Response

In February 2020, the BOP's Public Health Service (PHS) staff were placed in operational dress uniforms to be ready to respond to COVID-19 incidents by the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As a result, the BOP began planning for its COVID-19 response and instituted a comprehensive management approach for oversight of the situation. Oversight includes all BOP Regional Offices, all BOP Central Office Divisions (which oversee program level functions), and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) that coordinates with state and local prisons and jails. The BOP implemented its approved Pandemic Influenza Plan.

The BOP's planning is structured using the Incident Command System (ICS) framework. The BOP is utilizing the guidance and directives from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), DOJ and the Office of the Vice President. The BOP's Incident Action Plan includes but is not limited to the COOP plans, supplies, inmate movement, visitation, staff training, and official staff travel. The ICS Command Center conducts daily briefings and provides updates to senior management. BOP institutions, as a matter of policy and procedure, have pandemic plans for preparedness in the event of any infectious disease outbreak.

Guidance memos have been issued from Central Office, including guidance sent by the BOP Medical Director to all field clinical personnel on January 31, 2020 and on February 29, 2020. The guidance described screening best practices, provided inmate and staff screening tools, and CDC best practices/flyers as to preventing the spread of the disease. The screening tool for staff has been published on the BOP's internal and public websites. On March 6, 2020, additional guidance was sent to BOP field sites to assess and review the BOP's Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) inventory. A national acquisition plan is being executed to obtain bulk purchases, stockpile supplies and coordinate distribution. The inventory of infectious disease PPE supplies has already been completed at all BOP locations and the use of alternative supply chain options is being explored. Guidance from the BOP's Health Services Division and the Human Resource Management Division was issued to all BOP staff on March 9, 2020 regarding COVID-related screening for staff and how leave should be assigned (BOP leave protocols follow OPM guidance).

BOP's COVID-19 Collaboration Efforts

The BOP is providing interagency representation, resources, and collaboration with regard to COVID-19 to and with:

  • Emergency Support Function #13 ("ESF-13" as part of FEMA)
  • US Marshals Service
  • Biological Operational Threat Resource Federal Task Force (DHS)

BOP PHS Officers have been deployed for national travel-related screening at airports and the BOP's National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has been asked to share BOP-related guidance with state and local corrections. The BOP is participating in collaborative teleconferences with the CDC to exchange information related to COVID-19 and corrections. CDC routinely turns to BOP for correctional healthcare expertise for the appropriate management of HIV, Hepatitis, pandemic infections and many other public health situations. Currently, the CDC is providing interim guidance on the management of coronavirus disease in correctional and detention facilities . The American Correctional Association (ACA) also regularly consults with BOP as known experts within the correctional health care arena. In fact, ACA has posted the staff and inmate COVID-19 screening tools developed by the BOP on their public website.