BOP in the Spotlight Again
The Bureau of Prisons set a new record a week ago Monday. The BOP reported 9,531 prisoner cases on that day, a high that dropped to 7,808 by last Thursday (due partly to the BOP’s aggressive practice of writing off offenders as “COVID recovered” after 10 days).
Last Friday, January 28, the BOP failed to disclose case statistics. However, the number was still at 7,724, higher than the previous high of 7,690 set last year.
The number of staff (which the BOP may control by announcing personnel to have recovered, but not inmate counts) increased by 26% from the previous Friday to 1,956. The number of staff cases is approaching the all-time high of 2,107, established on January 13, 2021.
Five additional inmates died last week, one each at FMC Ft Worth, FMC Butner and Butner I, FCI Mendota (California), and Coleman Medium, according to the BOP. This brings the total number of BOP and private-facility inmates who have died to almost 300. The death at Ft. Worth was the facility’s 17th COVID prisoner death.
Juanita Haynes is not included in the BOP figures. Ms. Haynes, who had previously applied for compassionate release from the FPC Alderson women’s facility but had been denied, applied again on December 23 while suffering from COVID. It’s far too late. The day after Christmas, Ms. Haynes was put on a ventilator. Her sentence judge eventually believed her and granted compassionate release on January 3.
“Ms. Haynes is currently suffering from a life-threatening case of COVID-19 and is unfortunately showing no signs of improvement,” the judge wrote. “Additionally, ICU staff have advised that if she is to recover from her current state, she will require a long-term tracheostomy. Given these findings, the court decides that Ms. Haynes’ present medical condition qualifies as a serious medical condition requiring extraordinary and compelling justification.”
Juanita Haynes died two days later, never waking up from her medically induced coma to discover she was no longer a slave. The BOP’s environment caused her death, but she is not included in the death toll because she died after her release was authorized.
According to ABC News, two U.S. Senators who had arranged to inspect FCI Danbury with labor union leaders and two state lawmakers “were barred from seeing the main women’s facility but were able to see a men’s unit after a ‘fight’ to gain access” were “barred from seeing the main women’s facility but were able to see a men’s unit after a ‘fight’ to gain access.”
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (both D-Conn) requested an investigation into the circumstances in Danbury in response to allegations from correctional officials about a staffing shortfall and a lack of COVID measures.
“There was a decision made to try to stop both of us from seeing some of the conditions at this prison,” Senator Murphy said afterward. “Even during COVID, lawmakers should be able to examine this facility.” It’s important to see it in good times, but it’s as important to see it in difficult times. And it’s a concern if the Bureau of Institutions has determined that U.S. lawmakers won’t be allowed to observe what’s going on inside these prisons during a crisis.”
The Denver Gazette reported Friday that BOP staff at FCI Englewood charged that the BOP had failed to “properly screen staff or broadly test inmates for COVID-19… ignoring federal guidance despite repeated pleas from the union that represents the facility’s workers.”
The result, the workers alleged, is the “largely unchecked spread of the virus in the sort of setting that has been a hotbed for outbreaks for nearly two years.” Englewood has 12 ill prisoners and 18 sick personnel as of Thursday.
Inmates at FCI Englewood have to “beg and plead” to get tested, the Gazette said one union official had said, and “he alleged that the understaffed, in-house medical team had told some symptomatic inmates that they just have allergies.”
The BOP “said it will begin mandating tougher screening for anybody entering the prison — the type that staff say they’ve requested for months — starting Friday,” according to the Gazette.
FCI Oakdale I had 494 instances yesterday, while Yazoo City Medium had 475. There were 200 or more instances at five institutions, more than 100 in another 15, and more than 50 in another 24.