With No Ventilators, Prisons Transport Inmates To Local Hospitals For Coronavirus Treatment
Most in-prison health facilities are not properly equipped to treat severe COVID-19 cases, The Marshall Project reports. So they must lean on local hospitals for acute care. Other prison-outbreak news reports on new Justice Department guidance for early releases, a judge's criticism of pre-release quarantine practices, the deaths of Rikers Island jail guards, and more.
The Marshall Project:
Infected, Incarcerated—And Coming To An ICU Near You?
By the time Dr. John Walsh raised the alarm in late March, his hospital in Joliet, Illinois, was almost out of ventilators. Sick prisoners from a nearby state prison kept arriving in the emergency room, requiring nine ventilators and overwhelming the private 480-bed AMITA Health St. Joseph Medical Center. Walsh went on television to plead for help with what he called a COVID-19 disaster. The U.S. Constitution requires prison systems to provide medical care for the people they incarcerate, the Supreme Court has said. And so states and the federal government hire doctors and nurses, or contract with healthcare companies, to treat sick prisoners. (Neff and Schwartzapfel, 4/16)
New DOJ Guidance: Federal Prisoners Up For Coronavirus-Related Release Must Have Served 50% Of Sentence
The Department of Justice has issued new guidelines to the federal prison system requiring that prisoners eligible for release to home confinement amid the coronavirus outbreak must have served at least 50% of their prison sentence, according to a Bureau of Prisons memo obtained by ABC News. The updated guidance was shared with federal prisons across the country Monday, according to sources familiar with it. Inside some facilities sources described to ABC News confusion over the department’s new guidelines, especially since some of the wheels were already in motion for some releases. (Barr, Faulders and Mallin, 4/21)
Judge Rips Feds Over Prison Quarantine Policies
A federal judge in New York has slammed the federal Bureau of Prisons for what she contends are “illogical” and “Kafkaesque” quarantine policies that put inmates and the community at greater risk of contracting coronavirus. U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan, in a decision dated Sunday, excoriated federal officials over their practice of putting inmates considered or approved for early release into a pre-release quarantine before they are sent home. (Gerstein, 4/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
Rikers Island Jail Guards Are Dying In One Of The Worst Coronavirus Outbreaks
When Quinsey Simpson relieved a colleague at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex in early March, he had no idea his fellow correction officer was infected with the coronavirus. Before long, Officer Simpson had an unrelenting cough. When his chest began feeling tight, he went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. “We had the hope of him getting better, until he got on the respirator,” said Britton Alston, his friend and one-time co-worker. (Paul and Chapman, 4/22)
Inmate Who Fled Amid Coronavirus Faces New Charges After Turning Himself In
A prisoner who says he escaped custody over fears about contracting the coronavirus is now facing new charges after he turned himself in to authorities. The Justice Department announced that Richard Cephas of Wilmington, Del. was arrested Monday, over two weeks after authorities say he escaped from the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in Butner, N.C. He is now being charged over the escape. (Axelrod, 4/21)
Texas Organizing Project Activists Say They Will Bail People Out Of Jail To Protect From Coronavirus
Local community activists said Tuesday they would begin bailing defendants out of some of Texas’ largest county jails to protect them from dangerous conditions inside caused by the spread of the new coronavirus. In a news release, the Texas Organizing Project announced it would focus on bailing out people with low bonds in Harris County, Dallas County, Bexar County, and Fort Bend County. Harris County’s jail, with some 7,400 inmates, is the second largest county jail in the United States. (Barned-Smith, 4/21)