June 1, 2020

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on ICE and Prison Detention

Government Accountability Project Client Testifies About Dangers During Pandemic

WASHINGTON – Tomorrow, June 2, at 10:00 am, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing titled “Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19.” Government Accountability Project client Dr. Scott Allen will testify as a witness on the health risks posed to prisoners, immigrants, workers, and the public from the spread of COVID-19 in correctional and immigration detention settings.

Dr. Allen serves as a medical subject matter expert in detention health for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (DHS CRCL). When the spread of the novel coronavirus became a clear public health concern, Dr. Allen felt a professional duty to warn DHS and Congress, along with another CRCL expert (and Government Accountability Project client) Dr. Josiah “Jody” Rich, about conditions in prisons and immigration detention, which create a “tinderbox scenario” for the spread of COVID-19 that poses a significant risk to detainees, workers, and the public.

Dr. Allen will be speaking in his individual capacity and not on behalf of DHS, and his testimony will warn of the high potential of COVID-19 to spread through centers where social distancing and hygiene requirements are not feasible and where there is frequent movement of detainees and staff in and out of detention facilities. He will highlight that the spread of COVID-19 in correctional and detention settings poses, similar to the congregate settings of colleges, schools, nursing homes and cruise ships, a serious public health threat that should be addressed as part of a national response to the pandemic. His recommendations to the committee include implementing aggressive testing; carefully reducing the populations in jails, prisons, and detention facilities; and collaborating with medical authorities to safely release detained individuals.

In his written testimony, Dr. Allen notes,

“I urge you to recognize that this virus does not care who you are or what uniform you wear. It can easily move in and out of facilities undetected in the absence of aggressive testing-based surveillance and containment. Inmates, detainees, corrections officers, and correctional healthcare staff are not biologically different from everyone else. Therefore, there should be parity in the public health standards driven by solid public health principles and evidence of best practices as they evolve.”

Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel and attorney for Dr. Allen, Dana Gold, said, 

“Dr. Allen exercised his duty as a medical professional and whistleblower by sounding the alarm about the dangers posed to immigrants, prisoners, workers and the public by the spread of COVID-19 in correctional and detention settings. Movement to address these risks has been dangerously slow. That is why Congress holding his hearing is so important – heeding Dr. Allen’s warnings, and seeking his advice is critical to Congress’s ability–and duty–to address this national emergency.”


Contact: Dana Gold, Senior Counsel and Director of Education
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 457-0034 x160

Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.