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April 20, 2020

Updating "official" COVID data from federal and Ohio prisons

BOP's COVID-19 Update page, as of April 20, has this report of the latest data on "COVID -19 Cases":

The BOP has 143,705 federal inmates in BOP-managed institutions and 10,225 in community-based facilities.  The BOP staff complement is approximately 36,000.  As of 04/20/2020, there are 497 federal inmates and 319 BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide.  Currently, 205 inmates and 33 staff have recovered.  There have been 22 federal inmate deaths and 0 BOP staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease....

Since the release of the Attorney General's original memo to the Bureau of Prisons on March 26, 2020 instructing us to prioritize home confinement as an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BOP has placed an additional 1,280 inmates on home confinement.

I have previously expressed concern that these "official" numbers are not a full reflection of the "facts on the ground," and I find especially notable the claim of "0 BOP staff member deaths" given media reports of a confirmed staff death from COVID.  Moverover, whatever the particulars of the BOP accounting above, the extent of the coronavirus spread would only be fully known if we had some details on just how many prisoners and staffers have been tested for the virus.

Helpfully, Ohio is now providing daily updates on COVID-19 Inmate Testing that includes both positive and negative results.  The accounting as of April 20, 2020 is available here, and it is telling and frightening: Positive 3312; Negative 1035.  In other words, among the (large number of) tested prisoners in Ohio, over 75% have tested positive for COVID-19.  Put another way, there are more cofirmed COVID-positive-tested persons in Ohio prisons than the entire total of COVID cases so far confirmed in 22 distinct states (according to Worldometer) and more than in countries ranging from Argentina to Greece to new Zealand to South Africa.

April 20, 2020 at 06:38 PM | Permalink


Doug: Not only is it inhumane to house inmates in highly infected prisons, where they are almost certain to get the Coronavirus themselve, but inevitably many of these inmates or their estates (for those who die) will sue for damages and injunctive relief in Federal Courts for violation of their civil rights under color of law, per 28 U.S. Code section 1983 and pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). Ohio will end up paying out millions of dollars in damages over these cases, plus have to pay the attorneys' fees to defend them. Ohio officials have to separate the non-infected inmates from the infected inmates and move them to other facilities, perhaps even a military base.

Posted by: James Gormley | Apr 20, 2020 11:32:39 PM

I find it puzzling that Ohio has been able to test thousands of inmates, while FCI Elkton (as of last Friday) had only been able to test 37 inmates for COVID-19.

By the way, Elkton reported 50 COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, April 19, but admitted in a Friday filing in U.S. District Court in Cleveland that it had 132 inmates in isolation. I agree with you that the COVID-19 count in federal prisons is far larger than admitted.

It is remarkable that the Bureau of Prisons is so inept in purchasing test kits. (Incidentally, of FCI Elkton's first 55 test kits, 50 were donated to it by the local county government).

Posted by: Tom Root | Apr 21, 2020 2:18:40 PM

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