News Analysis Jul 23, 2021 5:29 PM EST

DOJ investigates how prisoners were treated during COVID, but ignores nursing home deaths

The DOJ announced on Friday that they would not be pursuing an investigation into the nursing home deaths in Pennsylvania. The DOJ is, however, investigating the same concerns in regards to prisons.

DOJ investigates how prisoners were treated during COVID, but ignores nursing home deaths
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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The Biden administration's Department of Justice, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, announced on Friday that they would not be pursuing an investigation into the nursing home deaths in Pennsylvania. The DOJ is, however, investigating the same concerns in regards to prisons.

The DOJ contacted Democrat Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday to say that they would not be investigating the question of if the state was in violation of federal law when it forced nursing homes to accept the return of COVID-19 patients after a hospital stay.

It has been 11 months since the DOJ told the Democrat-led states of Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan that information to make this assessment was required to find out if the instructions "may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents."

The nursing home deaths occurred while Rachel Levine, who has since been confirmed as the Biden administration's assistant health secretary and has been heralded as the first biological male who identifies as transgender to be confirmed by the Senate, was Department of Health Secretary for Pennsylvania.

Dr. Levine, who has been a proponent of the medical gender transition of minors, defended the policy of returning COVID-19 patients to nursing homes saying, "They contracted the virus in the facility. So it doesn't mean they were bringing it to the facility. The virus was already there."

In May 2020, Levine pulled her own mother out of a nursing home rather than leave her to be subjected to her own policies. "My mother requested and my sister and I as her children comply to move her to another location," Levine said at a press conference.

"My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions," said Levine. This was not an option afforded to the 10,022 nursing home residents in the state who died from the virus.

The DOJ, however, is conducting an investigation into how prison populations were managed during the pandemic.

The "Capstone Review of Findings From Remote Inspections of Facilities Housing Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmates during the COVID-19 Pandemic" will analyze "the findings of 15 published remote inspection reports of 16 facilities housing BOP inmates during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic and remaining challenges for the BOP during the pandemic and beyond."

The DOJ writes that "These inspections assessed whether BOP-managed institutions, contract institutions, and contract Residential Reentry Centers complied with available guidance and best practices regarding preventing, managing, and containing potential COVID-19 outbreaks in correctional and residential reentry settings, and highlighted particular challenges faced by specific institutions."

The DOJ is also investigating how prisoners who were confined at home were treated, and if guidance was followed there.

"The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has initiated a review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) use of home confinement as a tool to mitigate the effect of the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the federal prison population. The review will assess the BOP’s process for implementing the use of home confinement as authorized under the CARES Act, the process for its consideration of the eligibility criteria outlined in the Attorney General's March 26 and April 3, 2020 memoranda, and the process by which BOP headquarters evaluated wardens; recommendations that inmates who did not meet the Attorney General's criteria be placed in home confinement. The review will also select particular cases for examination to determine whether there were irregularities in the BOP's processes."

They are also undertaking surveys of federal prison staff and inmates during the pandemic, saying "In addition to the three surveys of staff at BOP-managed institutions, contract prisons, and residential reentry centers that the OIG conducted in 2020 regarding BOP's COVID-19 pandemic response, the OIG is also conducting two additional surveys in 2021 – a second survey of BOP federal prison staff and a new survey of inmates."

The DOJ is investigating a host of other things. The DOJ is investigating: contracts awarded for expert witness services, an audit of the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant Program, cyber risk assessments, several audits of DEA programs, making sure the electronic system for processing immigration is being properly used, among a slow of other issues.

They have five active investigations into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, including into their "oversight of 3-D firearm printing technology," and making sure their procedures for revoking firearms licenses are fully functional.

Michigan is also not going to be investigated.

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