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May 2, 2020

Another day, another set of ugly COVID stories and data emerging from federal prisons

I surmise that federal lawyers are making claims in federal courts around the nation that the Bureau of Prisons are doing a great "expert" job dealing with the COVID pandemic in federal facilities around the nation.  But a quick scan of recent media stories and even BOP's own data suggests a very different story.  First, some headlines:

From CBS News, "No phone or email for nearly 4,000 inmates at three federal prisons in effort to fight virus":

As coronavirus cases surge inside three federal prisons in California, the Bureau of Prisons has instituted stringent measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.  The three institutions — in Lompoc and Terminal Island — have cut off inmates' access to email and phone lines, drawing outrage from families who have not heard from loved ones in nearly two weeks.  CBS News spoke to the friends and families of five inmates who have been impacted by what one person characterized as a "gag order."

From Forbes, "Bureau Of Prisons Locking Up Minimum Security Campers In Higher Security Prisons"

If a person is confused over how the BOP released him, those left behind are certainly confused as to when the BOP will act on their promises to let them go home. The BOP has come under fire for expanding the number of inmates at its minimum and low facilities eligible for home confinement, only to tell a number of them that they were now not under consideration ... then they were told again they might be. Now many inmates, whose fate related to home confinement is unknown, have been housed in a type of quarantine, some locked down in cells in higher security facilities, for weeks now. It is cruel to the inmates and even more cruel for the families whose contact with them has been limited. Some have only been able to communicate via regular mail.

From the Intercept, "Medical Expert: Federal Jail Intentionally Destroying Medical Records And Hiding Extent Of Coronavirus Behind Bars"

A federal jail in Brooklyn, New York, that houses roughly 1,700 people is destroying medical records as part of a deliberate effort to obscure the number of incarcerated people infected with the coronavirus and to avoid providing them adequate care, alleges the report of a medical expert who toured the facility April 23 as part of a court-ordered inspection.  The report, filed Thursday as part of a putative class-action lawsuit by people held in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, casts doubt on assertions by the Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District, which serves as counsel for the bureau. The Bureau of Prisons and federal prosecutors have insisted in court that the situation at the jail is under control.

And BOP's own official data, which many suggest should not be trusted, itself does not provide any basis for hopefulness. BOP's COVID-19 Update page, reporting now data through May 1, states "there are 1842 federal inmates and 343 BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide ... [and] there have been 36 federal inmate deaths."

UPDATE: BOP updated its number this afternoon: "As of 05/02/2020, there are 1919 federal inmates and 349 BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide..... There have been 37 federal inmate deaths and 0 BOP staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease."

May 2, 2020 at 11:11 AM | Permalink


Doug: According to our local newspaper (the Lexington "Herald-Leader"), as of Friday, there are now 33 cases of the Coronavirus at the Federal prison here, the Federal Medical Center on Leestown Road. This is the prison where Chad Marks, who is supposed to finally be released in June 2020, is incarcerated.

Posted by: James Gormley | May 2, 2020 11:42:39 AM

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