Authorities are locking down all federal prisons as the country braces for potential violence leading into Wednesday’s swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden.
The lockdown was announced early Saturday morning. A statement from the Bureau of Prisons does not specify the length of the lockdown but says the agency was securing all of its facilities as a precautionary measure brought on by “current events occurring around the country.”
“In securing the facilities, the hope is that this prudent measure is for a short period and that operations will be restored to their prior status as soon as practical,” the agency said. “We will continue to monitor events carefully and will adjust operations accordingly as the situation continues to evolve.”
The Associated Press reports that the lockdown went into effect at midnight Saturday, after inmates had been secured in their cells for the night. The Bureau of Prisons statement goes on to say that inmates would still be provided with access to email and telephones but that communication with families would be limited.
The agency also says that no specific information led to the lockdown nor was it in response to any ”significant” event occurring within a federal prison.
Shane Fausey, president of the Council Of Prison Locals, which represents some 30,000 prison employees, praised the decision.
“The Bureau of Prisons and its professional Federal Law Enforcement employees train for all types of conditions and ways to not only manage emergencies, but more importantly to prevent serious incidents from occurring. Protecting our communities, the inmates entrusted in our care, and all of our employees that stand on the last line of defense is a responsibility that we do not take lightly,” Fausey said in a statement.
Law enforcement agencies have been taking measures in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and over fears of violence leading into Biden’s swearing-in. Several states worked to secure their Capitol buildings and the FBI has issued a warning for all 50 states.
The Bureau of Prisons is also sending members of its Special Operations Response Team to Washington, D.C., to assist security efforts after the mob spurred on by President Trump breached the Capitol earlier this month, the AP reports. About 100 officers had been sent to the Justice Department and were deputized by the U.S. Marshals Service earlier this month.
Prior to Saturday’s announcement, federal prisons had been under modified operations to contain the spread of COVID-19. More than 38,000 inmates and 3,500 staff in federal prisons have had COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 190 inmates and three staff members have died of the disease.