When I posted the original version of this blog, I used statistics from May 7, 2020, for the COVID-19 cases in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and May 8, 2020, for Henry County, Georgia. Numbers from both groups changed, but those from the BOP soared, especially Inmate Deaths. In Part II, I am including updated numbers and dates in bold and in parenthesis behind the original numbers.
In this post, I include correspondence from one inmate, who gave me permission to use because he wants the public to be made aware of the conditions inside that particular institution, which I feel certain is an accurate representation of many institutions inside the BOP because other subscribers have mimicked his statements and concerns.
PART II, COVID-19 Numbers Grow
Numbers used in statistics often do not mean much without other numbers to compare to or may even otherwise be used to distort reality. In this case, the severity of COVID-19 in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not seem as severe when looked at in isolation (confined to the statistical data of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons). A comparison to the Henry County, Georgia COVID-19 statistics highlights the severity of the infection rate in the BOP.
In Georgia, the Henry County COVID-19 numbers rank as number Eleven for confirmed cases.
COVID-19 IN THE UNITED STATES FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
This is the information/numbers given for the COVID-19 report on the BOP website for May 7, 2020 (https://www.bop.gov/coronavirus/):
“05/07/2020 (05/16/2020) – The BOP has 140,369 (138,363) federal inmates in BOP-managed institutions and 11,161 (11,674) in community-based facilities. The BOP staff complement is approximately 36,000. There are 2,646 (2,280) federal inmates and 244 (283) BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide. Currently, 591 (1,091) inmates and 278 (287) staff have recovered. There have been 44 (56) federal inmate deaths and 0 BOP staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease.”
[UPDATE: Here are the statistics for the BOP for May 8, 2020, which shows substantial growth in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases:
“05/08/2020 – The BOP has 140,119 (138,363) federal inmates in BOP-managed institutions and 11,331 (11,674) in community-based facilities. The BOP staff complement is approximately 36,000. There are 3,082 (2,280) federal inmates and 248 (283) BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide. Currently, 619 (1,091) inmates and 279 (287) staff have recovered. There have been 45 (56) federal inmate deaths and 0 BOP staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease.”]
The reduction in confirmed COVID-19 positive cases may be due to the lack of testing and inmates being kept in private prisons. Private Prison representatives often refuse to provide requested information to journalists and others.
From bop.gov/coronavirus, the BOP reports the following:
“Due to the rapidly evolving nature of this public health crisis, the BOP will update the open COVID-19 confirmed positive test numbers, recoveries, and the number of COVID-19 related deaths daily at 3:00 p.m. The positive test numbers are based on the most recently available confirmed lab results involving open cases from across the agency as reported by the BOP’s Office of Occupational Health and Safety at 11:00 a.m. each day. BOP field sites may report additional updates throughout the day. Data is subject to change based on additional reporting.
“The BOP has begun additional testing of asymptomatic inmates to assist in slowing transmissions within a correctional setting. As such, our data reflects an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive tests reflected in the table below [see the table at bop.gov/coronavirus]. The BOP is able to better utilize this information for the management of an outbreak at the relevant, affected facility.
“The inmate totals listed do not include inmates participating in the Federal Location Monitoring program or being held in privately managed prisons. Additionally, the reference to the FCI Butner Low below refers to an isolation unit that is physically separated from the rest of the LSCI.”
Many men incarcerated across the nation inside the confines of the BOP have complained about the lack of testing for COVID-19, and some staff’s failure to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); e.g., face masks and gloves.
Straight From the Pen of the Incarcerated
The information below comes from an inmate at one of the federal prisons in Butner, North Carolina, where other inmates in the complex have reported the same situation (lack of testing, CDC recommendations not followed (social distancing and failure to wear PPE), as have inmates in Terre Haute, Indiana, and U.S.P. Victorville in California.
(I’ve reorganized paragraphs for ease of reading. The provided information is posted as provided, other than minor spelling and punctuation corrections. Additional information is included in brackets. Some content isn’t intelligible but is irrelevant for this post. The inmate often uses “jail” instead of “prison” when he is referring to the institution.)
5/14/2020: If I write a blog later in relation to the lack of testing, not following safety protocols, etc., do you want me to post this?
[Inmate Name Removed to Protect Privacy] May 15, 2020:
“Yes, it needs to be known what Butner is doing to the inmates and how they aren’t doing anything to fight the infections. Most of the guards don’t even wear mask. The guards are bringing it [COVID-19] in the jail and it seems like a norm to them its two blocks left that has no infection. Out of 8 blocks 6 blocks have been infected and the numbers are going up five more just was quarantined today.”
[Inmate Name Removed to Protect Privacy] 5/14/2020:
“Granville a is quarantined and the just had an inmate on Vance [?] a test positive don’t know how many he affected the took him out of here this jail isn’t doing anything for our safety the have me working in the kitchen for 11 hours a day fixing the meals for the rest of the jail there is no social distancing we are all working don’t know who is infected and who ain’t they only check your temperature there has not been one single test administered on this compound and the virus is spreading at a rapid pace and all they do is put you in the shu [Segregated Housing Unit] for 14 days don’t test you and after the 14 days they put you right back in population there is no structure for fighting this virus they are not follow no guidelines and this is sad there is so many people they are deliberately placing in harm’s way and they don’t even care and that’s why is so sad.”
Friday, May 15, 2020:
RE: RE: 05/12-13/2020 (Numbers keep growing)
[Inmate Name Removed to Protect Privacy]
“This is all lies there is a total of 58 that are quarantined in the shu as we speak I know because I make the trays for the shu and the still have us working together in the kitchen not social distancing and [UNICOR, Federal Prison Industries, Inc.] is still working without social distancing. This place just doesn’t care.
“There is no 40 that has recovered they are only keeping them in the shu for 14 days and sending them right back to the block to infect other people this jail has no compassion it just doesn’t matter to them we have been locked down since march we are trapped on a block with no ventilation the same air is just blowing the same infected air throughout the jail.”
All you can do is follow the recommendations, and especially about washing your hands before touching your face after being on the computer or phone, which should be done at any time. Here’s what was on the bop.gov website yesterday for Butner institutions (Butner Low has 22 confirmed cases, and 40 who have recovered):
Butner Medium I FCI
Butner Low FCI
[Inmate Name Removed to Protect Privacy] on 5/14/2020 5:49:59 PM wrote
“Things are getting bad here and Butner low there are 8 dorms and the virus is in three they have Durham b they are on quarantined.”
DENIAL/NOT SO COVERED UP STATISTIC: The BOP is in denial or is trying to cover-up the death of one of its staff members who died from COVID-19 (39-year-old, Ms. Robin Grubbs, Case Manager). I suspect the failure to acknowledge the death of one of their own from COVID-19 is a failed attempt to cover-up the incident due to the bad publicity about the BOPs failure to provide staff and inmates with proper protective equipment for months. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/employee-death-raises-questions-about-conditions-inside-federal-pen/3Enh61w6Di8rcT9YuY5PPK/
[In the above examples, the BOP still does not acknowledge the death of Ms. Robin Grubbs as being due to COVID-19. In the referenced article about her death reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the inmate stated what mirrors the statements of many inmates who expressed concerns to me through correspondence (staff not wearing personal protective equipment because it isn’t available or otherwise does not wear any).]
COVID-19 IN HENRY COUNTY GEORGIA
“Henry County, Georgia Population 2020
“Henry County, Georgia ‘s estimated population is 225,508 with a growth rate of 1.95% in the past year according to the most recent United States census data. Henry County, Georgia is the 9th largest county in Georgia.” https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-counties/ga/henry-county-population
The B.O.P. only has a total of 151,530 (150,037) individuals held captive in the prison system (numbers include inmates in Residential Reentry Centers), along with 36,000 staff who work for the BOP, for a total of 187,530 (186,037) people, but the BOP had 44 (56) inmate deaths, and a total of 2,890 (2,280) confirmed COVID-19 cases on May 7, 2020; however, if the number of confirmed cases and those who have recovered are included, the total COVID-19 cases that were in the BOP is 4,800.
As mentioned above, Henry County ranks 11 in Georgia for the COVID-19 case, with Henry County’s 225,508 people, only 559 (700) confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 14 (18) deaths, as reported on May 8, 2020 (May 17, 2020). In the BOP with far fewer people, the death rate is much higher (56/18). The difference in infection rates enormous (4,800/700).
The point being that the BOP COVID-19 pandemic within the system is serious and demands attention, as does the handling of the COVID-19 crisis in all of the many other prison systems across the United States and other parts of the world, many of the latter which are likely worse than the situation in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.
With the substantial increase in BOP COVID-19 deaths and the number of confirmed cases that were within the system (4,800 total), it reveals a more significant issue than the numbers viewed in isolation, buried within the walls, bars, and fences of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The inactions and failure of prison officials to implement processes and to comply with CDC recommendations have killed 56 federal inmates, and most likely, hundreds more in State prisons.
Many other deaths and COVID-19 cases are probably hidden within the privately managed prisons across the United States.
Will the day come when legislatures enact laws to hold prison administrators accountable for actions or inactions when it leads to the deaths of other humans? Unlikely.
[Note: The focus of this blog is not about private prison officials’ refusal to provide information to journalists, so I won’t expound on the topic, but do know that it has always been an issue that is hidden inside BOP contracts with private prison representatives.]