Trump Considering An Execuctive Order To Release Non-Violent Minimum Security Inmates, But Is He Acting Quickly Enough?
By: Dr. Wilbur Gott
Washington, Inmates and staff at the 122 BOP facilities throughout the United States are requesting Coronavirus testing, but in almost all instances are being denied proper screening and medical attention. The Federal Prison System in The United States is severely overcrowded and understaffed, holding more than 175,000 inmates, estimates being as much as 15% overcrowded, even after The First Step Act of 2018, which by and large has yet to be followed or implemented by the DOJ.
Sources have reported the BOP is neglecting their responsibility to grant inmates productive activity credits, allowing them to exchange a portion of their sentence for more time on supervised release. If the BOP were to follow the law and implement this provision, over 10,000 inmates would be currently eligible to serve the remainder of their sentences on home confinement or probation.
We attempted to contact wardens at over a dozen institutions, including Warden Hudson at USP Leavenworth and Warden Joyner at USP Big Sandy. All of which have been unavailable to comment. This comes as no surprise as misconduct among executive staff in the BOP is rampant. In 2019 a congressional report revealed that BOP misconduct is regularly ignored or even covered up.
The CDC issued guidelines for Correctional Facilities states at least 6 feet of “Social Distancing” space is required between all inmates and Correctional Officers. However, especially in the case of our Minimum Security Prison Camps, entirely housing low level non-violent offenders, less than three feet of personal space is available. This begs an answer to the question: Should we be putting low-level, minimum risk, non-violent offenders in unhealthy and unsafe environments, or should we call on President Trump to use his executive powers to allow these offenders to serve out the remainder of their sentences on Home Confinement or house arrest?
On March 19th, 2020, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) called on President Trump to release all non-violent offenders who have either served most of their sentence or are elderly and at greater risk to the Covid-19 Virus. The reality however, is that if the BOP would just obey the law and grant minimum risk offenders their productive activity credits from December 21st, 2018 forward, the issue of unsafe living environments would mostly remedy itself.
On March 23rd, 2020, ABC News reported that the Federal Bureau of Prisons is still transporting prisoners. Multiple unnamed sources have since confirmed that busses are in fact still leaving from MDC Brooklyn and USP Atlanta, two cities where a combined 15,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus have already been reported.
An unnamed Correctional Officer at USP Big Sandy stated, “We have over 10 inmates in quarantine right now.” He was not able to comment as to whether or not the inmates have tested positive for Coronavirus.
Staff members are being asked to self quarantine, working excessively long shifts and sleeping at the institutions. Though, two anonymous staff members from FCC Oakdale stated the quarantine measures are minimal, still having to go to Walmart to get food and supplies, and ultimately putting other faculty and the inmate population at risk. One source went on to say, “It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN all staff and inmates will inevitably contract this deadly virus. I don’t think the federal government really cares about the health of their employees. And they certainly could care less about the inmates.” She continued, “And President Trump isn’t going to do a thing. He’s all talk and no action.”
Though, many concerned Americans don’t agree. And on March 22nd, 2020, POTUS announced he is in fact considering releasing some nonviolent offenders. The question now is, will any measure he takes come soon enough, and will it be adequate?
A petition created by a family member of a “Compassionate Camper” on March 11th calls on President Trump to take action quickly, before it’s too late. Over 40,000 people have signed, and the number is growing by thousands daily. You can view the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/donald-j-trump-home-confinement-to-lessen-camper-s-exposure-to-the-deadly-covid-19-virus
Dr. Wilbur Gott is an advocate for criminal justice reform and an ardent supporter of Oaks of Justice, a prison-reform initiative that aims to send first time, non-violent offenders home on Home Confinement. You can learn more about Oaks of Justice at https://oaksofjustice.us
Despite coronavirus warnings, federal Bureau of Prisons still transporting inmates: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/warnings-bureau-prisons-transporting-inmates-sources/story?id=69747416 (ABC News, March 23rd, 2020)
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https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/488515-harris-pushes-for-release-of-low-risk-federal-prisoners-amid-coronavirus (The Hill, March 19th, 2020)
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