Covid 19-Coronavirus-Are Inmates Safe in Federal and State Prisons?
The world is turning into something that no one has ever seen before. Countries are closing borders and keeping non-citizens out. Inside, closings continue— restaurants, bars, churches, schools, movies, sporting events, and many factories and businesses are ordered closed. Social gatherings are limited to groups of 10 people or less, staying at least six feet apart. The United States is taking extreme, but needed measures, to try to combat the Coronavirus pandemic Are prison inmates safe?
By: Jail Time Consulting LLC
As of today, the confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the United States is at 9464 cases and deaths are over 155. Globally, the death toll reached 9386 and it is rising. Confirmed cases worldwide are 229,973. The confirmed cases in the United States are growing hourly as testing kits start to become available. Italy alone just reached 35,713 confirmed cases with over 2,978 deaths!
THE STATISTICS TELL THE SAD STORY
OUR PRISON POPULATION-EXPOSED
But what about our prison population both federal and state. Inmates are grouped together in cells and cubicles and cannot separate. Although they are in a closed environment, they are in tight quarters and very susceptible to the Coronavirus. Prisons also contain many high-risk inmates over 60,70, and 80 years of age and inmates also have chronic medical conditions including Heart Disease, Diabetes, Lung Disease, and immunodeficiency disorders. Where do they go to be safe? What measures has the Federal Bureau of Prisons instituted to protect them. Are inmates any less worthy?
The Bureau of Prisons, on its website, has listed measures that they say they are currently doing to protect the inmates and make them safe. But are they really doing this or are these just words on the Internet, on their Website? Fortunately, we, (Jail Time Consulting), have clients in every Federal Prison in the United States and we are hearing a totally different story than what is on the BOP website! What has the BOP instituted and what are they doing? Here is what the website states:
WHAT THE BOP WEBSITE STATES THE BOP IS DOING
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE PRISONS-FROM ACTUAL INMATES
The following are accounts from actual inmates in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
An inmate from FCI Butner Medium relayed to us that Butner is being locked down more and more. He states they are being moved one unit at a time to chow hall. (Units contain up to 120-180 inmates). He adds, "Even though we move one at a time, all units still can end up going to rec and end up together anyways. There are zero changes in regard to cleanliness or precautions from staff. Three Corrections Officers said nothing has changed, to protect the inmates, no precautions, no fever checks, nothing.Odd, since that's the only way to tell when we get it."
Another inmate client, a physician, stated in an email, "Yes we are quarantined and facing possible lock down. If you don't hear from me it's because we are on lock down. If I get sick, they are placing people in the 'hole' or additional quarantine due to my age."
A client in FCI Lompoc stated, "No visitation, minutes increased to 500. Other than that, not much has changed. I was told to work today in the rain. Likely increasing my chances that I get sick. Medical at this facility is a joke. Fellow inmates that have pre-existing conditions are struggling to get meds. Admin staff has been VERY scarce. This facility is among the worst when it comes to inmate care and treatment. We are still being bused to the other camp on site because our mess hall in the south side has mold. It's been closed for months."
A client at FCI Milan states, "Things are interesting both for me and the prison. Unicor is still up and running. The rec yard and Education are closed, and any non-essential moves have been cancelled. I have not heard anything from Medical on my latent TB I acquired while in this place. As for protection we have been put on Toilet Paper ration of one roll per inmate and must turn in the brown tube to receive a new one. We now have cleanser and paper towels to wipe down the phone before and after use. Other than that, it is a normal prison day without rec and education."
A female client at Dublin emailed me, "We are on 10-minute movements here, but now we are on controlled movements. They are letting the units out one by one to dining hall. All other work and school and rec is going as normal. No protection for inmates."
"They are trying to mitigate our exposure to each other but only through the dining hall, everywhere else we have full contact with each other."
"All officers and prison staff have their temperature taken before they come in. Inmates do not. So, if a staff member is running a fever, they can't come in. I saw one sick officer in education last week, she seemed pretty miserable. They gave more phone time, but most people are waiting for an hour + now for the phones and not worth it."
Another inmate in a maximum-security prison writes, "They have stopped all visits. The BOP is doing nothing to protect us. They're not cleaning any differently. No masks, and no hand sanitizer. No personal health cautions or common area cautions. No testing of course. Very scary. There is no way that Covid-19 can be kept out of there in my opinion. Staff members have told me that if the Coronavirus gets in here, they will not come to work. Then what do we do?"
An inmate at Sandstone says, "Here at Sandstone, any inmate that goes to the health service for respiratory illness is put into group isolation in the game room of unit K-3. They have been having about 3 to 10 inmates there per night. They check the inmates daily. If anyone looks well enough, they let them back out to general population. The isolated inmates can use the showers. They can't use the phones or computers. They have food brought to them. We can go to rec yard and indoor rec with all the other inmates, no social distancing. They are suspending large church-related programs over 50 people. If an inmate is sick, the COs put them in isolation. Some inmates that have symptoms do not go to health services, because they don't want to be put in isolation. The BOP here tells us that nobody has tested positive for the Coronavirus. I do not believe them." (This is from a client who is a physician).
Note: Other inmates at various institutions are reporting that staff members do have Covid-19!
Finally, a female inmate at Coleman camp wrote, "We already have a legionella bacteria outbreak here on the compound and it's in all of the papers and on the news. Simply Google Coleman women's prison and you see what we are going through. If the Coronavirus come here, it will wipe us out, we already have a deadly disease."
WHAT CAN AND SHOULD THE BOP AND STATE PRISONS DO?
What can be done? Well, the Federal Bureau of Prisons could follow the lead of states like New York and Ohio who are formulating or have formulated plans to release hundreds of at-risk inmates now! New York Corrections has called to have inmates who are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 to be released. They pressed officials to do what Ohio has done and release hundreds of inmates in an attempt to mitigate the spread of this pandemic virus to the prison population. Prison systems would serve as an incubator for the virus. Prisons should look at limiting new admissions at least temporarily. Los Angeles County has followed the lead and is releasing certain low-level offenders who are at high risk for Covid-19.
We need to protect all our citizens including inmates. We can do this with a combination of early releases, pre-trial diversion programs, delayed sentencing, and sentence reduction programs offered by both the states and the Bureau of Prisons. The BOP should make use of the Second Chance Act and the First Step Act and the Compassionate Release Program. These programs would help inmates get to their homes where they can be segregated, quarantined, if necessary, and be safe!
Michael Frantz, Director, Jail Time Consulting LLC