For the time being, Kendrick Fulton can only sit and wait.

“I’m just sitting here, waiting,” Fulton stated as he stared directly into the camera on his cell phone, which was recording his message. “For the US Marshals to come pick me up.”

A soda delivery truck driver in the Austin region, Fulton had just ended an overnight shift as a truck driver. In the video, he is still dressed in his uniform.

“I had a misunderstanding with a family member,” he explained further. It was they who contacted and informed me that I was no longer welcome at the residence. As a result, here I am… let’s see how it goes.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Fulton is one of more than 9,000 non-violent offenders who have been freed from federal prison as a result of COVID-19 concerns as a result of the CARES Act. Fulton was initially interviewed by KXAN in 2021. Many people’s futures are still in limbo, and they are far from “free.” Right now, it’s unknown if any of them will be given mercy or if they’ll eventually be forced to return to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences once the pandemic is over — something that some think would be cruel in the circumstances.

Fulton’s Release

Fulton, who had been released from prison in September 2020, was arrested again on February 17. He was imprisoned for three weeks despite the fact that he had not been charged with any new offences during that time. He was referring to a “misunderstanding” with his sister, Demetra Underwood Roane, which he addressed in his video. She tells KXAN that Fulton committed no wrongdoing.

In an interview with KXAN, Underwood Roane explained that her brother’s mail has been piling up since he’s been away. “This is his mail that’s been piling up since he’s been gone,” she said as she showed the station the mound of letters that had grown in her brother’s absence.

Fulton had been residing with Underwood Roane and her husband in their Round Rock home for the last year. The woman said she adored her brother, but that the living situation had caused pressure in her marriage after more than a year. She admitted that she had asked him to leave after an altercation with him.

“It’s been difficult, even now, to maintain my marriage and my family here,” she admitted. “I felt like 14 months, and he’s making great money, and he could afford his own place.”

Fulton wears an ankle monitor and, despite the fact that he is out in the community and employed full-time, he is still considered a federal prisoner. On a non-violent drug offense, he received a 33-year sentence, which he has a decade remaining to serve. If he had been sentenced today, his punishment would have been significantly less severe under the current drug sentencing laws.

Low-level offenders, such as Fulton, were released to community confinement during the pandemic to aid in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in our nation’s jails. When Underwood Roane was informed that her brother was being released, she stated that it didn’t feel real.

‘On the day of the release, he called us,’ she explained. “He said, ‘Y’all it’s really true. It’s happening. I’m coming home.’ We couldn’t believe it. “It was almost like a dream,” says the author.

Kendrick Fulton

Kendrick Fulton and his sister, Demetra Underwood Roane, pose for a photograph. The image to the left is courtesy of Demetra Underwood Roane

Since his release, Fulton has gotten his Commercial Driver’s License and is now employed full-time as a truck driver that delivers sodas to businesses throughout the area. Last month, he and his sister agree that there was a “family disagreement.” Underwood Roane stated that she spoke with Fulton’s community confinement supervisor, who was present at the time. She stated that she wanted Fulton to go, assuming, as she did, that the Bureau of Prisons would promptly transfer him to a family member’s home in Dallas, as she had hoped.

That was, in any case, the eventual goal, according to both parties, because Fulton has other family in the area as well as a job opportunity.

“We just thought he would be able to relocate because that was going to be the plan eventually,” said Underwood Roane, describing her decision as “a moment of frustration.”

Following his re-arrest, she claims she communicated with prison officials and informed them that she had changed her mind about releasing him. She expressed her desire for him to remain.

“I guess they just took that as if, ‘OK well it’s an unstable environment now, so we’re going to remove him,’” she said.

If she had known what was about to happen, she claims she would have “never, never” requested her brother to leave the house in the first place. Her pleadings with jail officials to allow him to remain at the facility were ignored, according to her.

According to her, the ultimate outcome has left her feeling miserable.

Fulton informed KXAN 11 days before his re-arrest that he was free, but that he was free “with a big asterisk.”

In County Jail

Here Kendrick Fulton

The McLennan County Jail in Waco is where Kendrick Fulton spoke with investigative reporter Matt Grant, according to a KXAN photo.

When you get into trouble, it’s much tougher to get out of it.

Fulton was hauled to the McLennan County Jail in Waco, where he remained locked up for several days without being charged with any additional crimes and without knowing if he would be transferred back to prison or released.

He was released from custody on March 10. Three weeks had passed since his arrest. He told KXAN: “I’m home!!”

Fulton had spoken to KXAN just a few days before from behind bars. He stated at the moment that he was completely unaware of what would happen next.

“I’m just waiting, man,” Fulton remarked, a sigh coming over his face. “Hoping that things get worked out… hoping the worst doesn’t happen, which is me being sent back to [federal] prison. So, I’m just hoping things work [out].”

During an interview with KXAN regarding an application that allows inmates to video conference, Fulton stated that he was not enraged by the circumstances. He simply didn’t grasp the concept.

I find it insane that a minor misunderstanding, or even a simple fight, might result in me being reincarcerated, or even sent back to prison, he said. “But, you know, trouble is easy to get in, harder to get out of. You get yourself in these situations, this is kind of what happens.”

Fulton says he doesn’t hold anything against his sister, but he admits that he hasn’t spoken to her since his incarceration.

“I’m not mad or anything like that,” said Fulton. “Hopefully, it just brings light to my situation and informs others of what I’m going through. And, what others like me are going through.”

“How long can you hold somebody?” Underwood Roane was the one who inquired. “Or, keep somebody detained for something they didn’t even do?”

As criminal justice reform advocates, we’re asking ourselves the same question.

‘How long can you keep somebody detained for something they didn’t even do?’

Community confinement can also apply to people “temporarily housed at a local county jail awaiting transfer to another facility” or to a new home, which must first be investigated, the BOP said, noting specific details could not be released due to security reasons.

“[I]n general, there are a variety of reasons, determined by numerous factors, why an inmate would temporarily be housed at a local jail,” a BOP spokesperson said. It is necessary to give time for the matter to be investigated, for hearings to be held, or to establish the most appropriate institution to be assigned, among other things.” In some situations, it is up to the United States Marshals Service to determine the schedule for movement, and this determination is outside the authority of the BOP.”

The US Marshals addressed all questions to the Bureau of Prisons.

President of FAMM Speaks out

“I just hate the situation so much. It’s so infuriating,” said Kevin Ring, the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a non-profit that advocates for criminal justice reform and clemency for people like Fulton.

“I was frustrated and, frankly, a little bit angry,” said Ring. “Because, here’s somebody who’s doing everything right.”

Kevin 2019 Kendrick Fulton: Cares Act To County Jail

It is not known how many other people may be in the same boat as you. According to KXAN, the Bureau of Prisons does not readily keep track of how many inmates are in jail awaiting transfer or what the average wait period is.

An official with the Bureau of Prisons responded, “Our office does not maintain the type of information you are requesting.”

Specifically, in Fulton’s case, Ring asserted that prison officials should have described to his sister the series of procedures that would take place when she contacted to have her brother released from prison. He believes she should have been given the opportunity to reconsider her decision after learning of the repercussions.

“It was an avoidable disaster,” said Ring. “And, once again, the government has just failed to exercise common sense to make things work out.”

Ring and his organization are in contact with the White House, where they are attempting to secure clemency for the inmate. He stated that there are no updates at this time, but stressed that President Biden is only considering awarding it to criminals who have “less than four years left” on their sentence – meaning Fulton would not even be eligible for such a release.

Currently, more than 5600 convicts are being held in home confinement around the country. Clemency should be awarded to all offenders released under the CARES Act, regardless of how much time remains on their sentences, according to Ring’s request.

During a Congressional hearing last year, it was revealed that just a small percentage of inmates who have been freed had reoffended.

In December, the BOP put out a memo saying it has “discretion” to keep inmates on home confinement and would develop a plan to evaluate “which offenders should be returned to secure custody” noting sentence length will be a “significant factor.”

“If somebody who’s out succeeding at home confinement, then does nothing wrong, but is still remanded and send back to prison,” Ring said. “What am I missing here?”

When the pandemic is over, jail officials must make a decision about what will happen to inmates, according to Ring. He claims that Fulton’s situation demonstrates why clemency is required.

“Keeping these people under a cloud of uncertainty,” said Ring, “is not going to work long-term.”

Source: KXAN