For several days, the Frank Report has been raising questions as to why the federal government was not releasing any prisoners to help stem the spread of the coronavirus – especially since many state prisons and local jails had already been doing so for the past few weeks.
Finally, U.S. Attorney General William Barr has announced that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) will start releasing some federal prisoners.
But, in making the announcement, Barr made it abundantly clear that releasing prisoners is not a top priority for the BOP – and that it’s not something that’s going to happen anytime soon.
He also shared a good deal of “misinformation” about what’s going on within the BOP with regard to the coronavirus.
Don’t Hold Your Breath
Barr indicated that no prisoners would be released immediately because of the need to make certain that released prisoners do not spread the virus into their communities.
“Obviously, the health and safety of our inmates and our staff is a top priority for us,” Barr said at a Justice Department news conference. “We take seriously our responsibility to protect those who are in our custody.” [According to several observers, Barr’s nose grew approximately 4″ after he made those two statements]
Barr went on to say that the BOP was looking to expand the use of home confinement as part of its effort to control the spread of the coronavirus in federal prisons.
Per the BOP’s new policy, any prisoners who are deemed eligible for the early release/home confinement program would be held in quarantine at their current prison for 14 days before they were released in order to be sure they don’t have the virus.
He did not explain why those prisoners would not simply be tested for the virus now – especially since the FDA recently approved a new test that produces results within 15 minutes.
Nor did he explain whether the prisoners would actually be tested before they were released after the 14-day quarantine period.
Not All Prisoners Will Be Eligible
Barr also indicated that certain prisoners would not be eligible for the early release/home confinement program. That includes those who are serving time for “serious offenses” – and those who are serving time for “sex offenses”.
The terms “serious offenses” and “sex offenses” were not defined by Barr or the BOP.
Barr also indicated that some prisoners might be kept in prison because the BOP thought they would be safer there.
“Many inmates will be safer in BOP facilities where the population is controlled and there is ready access to doctors and medical care”, he said.
Barr did not say that only prisoners over the age of 60 would be eligible for the early release/home confinement program – but that is certainly the impression that most observers came away with after his press conference on the topic.
There are currently about 167,000 prisoners in federal facilities – and, of those, about 10,000 of them are older than 60.
Raniere Will Likely Not Be Released
Even while his attorneys are pushing to get a copy of his medical records from the medical staff at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), there is virtually no chance that Keith Alan Raniere AKA Vanguard will be released from prison because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Here are some of the reasons why:
(1) He was denied bail on three occasions before the start of his trial because the presiding judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis, considered him to be a “flight risk” and/or a “danger to the community”.
(2) Since those rulings, Raniere was found guilty of seven felonies – and is currently facing a prison sentence of somewhere between 15 years and life. If he was a “flight risk” before the trial, he’s even more of one now. Ditto for being a “danger to the community”.
(3) One of the crimes that Raniere was convicted of is Sex Trafficking. Although, as noted, Barr did not define the term “sex offenses”, it seems safe to assume that it will include the crime of Sex Trafficking.
Keith can take solace in the fact that he’s not the only federal prisoner whose request to be released because of the coronavirus crisis was turned down.
Other notable federal prisoners whose requests were rejected include Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen, Bernie Madoff, and R. Kelly.
Misleading Statements By Barr
Barr made several other statements that were extremely misleading.
He said, for example, that only six federal prisoners had tested positive for COVID-19 – and that all six of them had been isolated.
But what he failed to say is that the BOP has only tested those prisoners who had extreme conditions – which means that there are likely quite a few more prisoners who have COVID-19 than the six he mentioned.
He also failed to note that the BOP was isolating any other prisoners who had direct contact with the six who are known to have COVID-19 – and that none of them had been tested.
When asked about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Barr said that the BOP had a sufficient amount of materials on hand at all prisons at the outset of the crisis – but that the current supply would only last another 30-45 days.
That statement flies in the face of the Correctional Officers union – which has complained that many federal prisons have already run out of masks, gowns, and protective jumpsuits.
Barr Also Guilty of Errors By Omission
Barr also failed to address one of the biggest problems in terms of the spread of the coronavirus in federal prisons: i.e., the admission of new prisoners.
Although the BOP has imposed a 30-day freeze on transferring inmates from one federal prison to another, it is still admitting new prisoners on a daily basis (That’s precisely how the first reported case of COVID-19 was introduced at MDC).
Which really makes no sense.
Since any defendant who was considered a “flight risk” or a “danger to society” was already incarcerated prior to trial, this means that the ones who were not on pre-trial detention did not fall into either of those categories.
So, why not put all newly convicted defendants on home confinement until we get through this coronavirus crisis?
Or does that just make too much sense?
Coming later today: Another update on Federal Prisoner #57005-177.