WASHINGTON – Federal officials have reassigned the warden of a Louisiana prison where the coronavirus has ravaged the compound, leaving eight inmates dead and infecting dozens of other prisoners and staffers.
The Bureau of Prisons said Friday that Oakdale, Louisiana, warden Rodney Myers had been assigned to "temporary duty" at the bureau's South Central Regional Office in Texas.
The bureau did not elaborate on the reason for the move. Myers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Early in the COVID-19 crisis, Oakdale had become the epicenter of the outbreak in the vast federal prison system.
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Conditions at the compound had drawn lawsuits from the ACLU and inmates who feared they would fall victim to the virus' rapid spread.
Recognizing the threat, Attorney General William Barr announced in April that he was expediting the release of vulnerable inmates from Oakdale and two other prisons where authorities were scrambling to contain coronavirus infections.
"We are experiencing significant levels of infection at several of our facilities, including the Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale (Louisiana), Danbury (Connecticut) and Elkton (Ohio)," Barr said. "We have to move with dispatch in using home confinement when appropriate to move vulnerable inmates out these institutions.
"Given the speed with which this disease has spread through the general public, it is clear that time is of the essence," the attorney general said.
Conditions at the Louisiana complex also have drawn the scrutiny of the Justice Department's inspector general who is conducting a wide-ranging review of the bureau's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Separately, Barr sent a team from his office to review operations in Louisiana.
Ronald Morris, president of the prison workers union in Oakdale, said Friday that he had been interviewed last week by investigators detailed to the inquiry headed by the inspector general.
"They wanted to know about conditions here, both for the inmates and the staff," said Morris, adding that the union has challenged Oakdale's management of the crisis.