Bureau of Prisons Initiates National Lockdown: 3 Key Points Update 2/24/2022
We received word from the Bureau of Prisons that several of our legal calls were canceled or needed to be rescheduled this week because of a “national lockdown.” We researched the matter further and discovered that the BoP implemented temporary security measures nationwide.
(BOP) - In an abundance of caution, following an incident at one of our institutions, on Monday, January 31, 2022, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) secured all institutions nationwide. This temporary security measure is to ensure the good order of our institutions. It is anticipated it will be short-lived and that operations will be restored to their prior status as soon as practical. The BOP will continue to monitor events carefully and will adjust operations accordingly as the situation evolves. For safety and security reasons, the BOP does not elaborate on specific security procedures.
Many of you may have expected to hear from your loved one this past week either by phone or email and did not. We will give all the information that we know here.
The Lockdown May be Related to Incidents that have Left Two Inmates Dead
At about 11:30 a.m. on Monday multiple inmates at U.S. Penitentiary Beaumont in Beaumont, Texas––a high security facility that currently houses about 1,372 male inmates–– were found fighting. “Inmate Guillermo Riojas and inmate Andrew Pineda were transported to a local hospital for life-threatening injuries, and were subsequently pronounced deceased by hospital staff,” said a press release from BOP on Monday evening. “Two additional inmates were transported to a local hospital for further medical assessment and treatment.” The FBI has been notified and no other inmates or staff were harmed or were in danger at the time, the press release added.
A source familiar with the matter said the incident was related to gang violence. The Associated Press, which also reported on the lockdown, said, “the altercation involved members of the violent MS-13 street gang, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The people could not discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.”
A national lockdown, which could mean that inmates would be kept inside their cells for up to 23 hours a day, was reportedly implemented to prevent retaliation: if gangs were involved, this lockdown could prevent the risk of further gang violence or retaliation against said gang(s).
The lockdown, being instituted at the agency’s more than 120 federal prisons across the U.S., was prompted by fears of potential retaliation and concern violence could spread to other facilities. During a nationwide lockdown, inmates are kept in their cells most of the day and visiting is canceled. Because of a spike in coronavirus cases in federal prisons, social visits at nearly every facility have been canceled already.
The use of a nationwide lockdown is relatively rare. The agency implemented the measure in April 2020 as coronavirus cases began skyrocketing in prisons nationwide, again after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and shortly before the inauguration of President Joe Biden later that month.
The lockdown further illustrates the difficulties that outgoing BoP Director Michael Carvajal has had in managing the prison system. Assuming that the lockdown continues to Monday, February 7, the lockdown will have continued for 7 days.
All Court Deadlines are in Effect
Although the Prisons might be shut down, this does not affect court deadlines. If your loved one is in prison and has court filings or replies that are due such as a Motion to Vacate to allege Ineffective Assistance of Counsel or a Direct Appeal, they must make every available effort to meet those deadlines. Inmates can still use the inmate mail system in order to get their motions filed and get their replies in.
The Prison mailbox rule enshrined in Houston vs. Lack gives guidance here. The prison maibox rule indicates that pro se documents are considered "filed" at the moment of delivery to prison authorities for forwarding to the district court. In order to avail themselves of the prison mailbox rule the inmate must engage in the appropriate inmate mail procedures and be sure to keep copies of what they filed.
Do not Communicate With your Loved ones On Cell Phones
It is certain that the Lockdown has created significant disruption for the inmate population. You may have been expecting to hear from your loved one to no avail. Even so, this is not the time to communicate with your loved one in prison with a cell phone (on their side, you can use whatever you want).
The use of cell phones by inmates is against BOP policy. This applies even in a lockdown. Communicating with your loved one over a cell phone could lead to your loved one losing their cell phone privileges or your number being blocked from the BOP’s phone service. While it might be a pain, use BOP approved methods to communicate with your loved one.
The BOP’s information indicates that they believe that this lockdown will be short-lived and that operations will return to normal as soon as practical. The most important consideration is whether your loved one has upcoming court deadlines in the next two weeks or so. If they do, then they should engage in the prison mailbox rule in order to get their filings in as soon as possible.
Update: Lockdown Lifted
The BOP reports that the lockdown has been lifted at all facilities:
The nationwide lockdown has been lifted. Since February 7, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has continued to gather and monitor intelligence in order to return facilities to their appropriate modified operational status. This tiered approach allowed the BOP to maintain the secure and orderly running of our institutions and the continued safety of staff, inmates, and the public.
Visitors should check the local institution's public website for any updates on visitation, or contact each specific facility for the current operational status.