ACLU Files Lawsuit for Inmates at Devens Federal Prison – Claiming ‘Deliberate Indifference to the Risk of Rampant Infection’ During Coronavirus Pandemic

Federal Medical Center Devens

[Breaking News: Rumors coming out of the federal prison camp in Otisville, NY  indicate that the BOP may be preparing to shut down the entire facility  –  and place all its remaining 101 inmates on “home confinement”. The facility is considered by many to be the cushiest federal prison in the U.S. – and is where Michael Cohen was serving his time before being released because of concern that he might become infected from the coronavirus. 


On April 1st, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced that it was going to implement a 14-day agency-wide lock-down in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its 122 facilities.

During the lock-down, many inmates spent 23-hours per day in their cells. They were also served mostly cold meals (often accompanied by sour milk), denied medical and dental visits, and only allowed to shower, make phone calls, and use the internet on certain days.

In this sort of situation, all inmates can usually do is try to hold on – and get through it as best they can.

Unless, of course, they’re lucky enough to have someone come forward to protect their constitutional rights.

Which is exactly what happened at Federal Medical Center (FMC) Devens when the ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts, Inc. – and some dedicated attorneys from the Fick & Marx law firm in Boston, MA – decided to initiate a lawsuit on behalf of several named prisoners “and those similarly situated”.

The lawsuit – which is titled Alexander Grinis, Michael Gordon and Angel Soliz v. Stephen Spaulding and Michael Carvajal (Grinis Et Al v. Spaulding Et Al) – was brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

BOP Director Carjaval

Grinis, Gordon and Soliz are all inmates at FMC Devens.

Spaulding is the Warden at FMC Devens – and Carvajal is the Director of the BOP.

Since the lawsuit was initially filed on April 14th, John Tighe has reportedly been added as a named petitioner.

John Tighe


Lawsuit Seeks to Immediately Reduce Inmate Population at FMC Devens

In conjunction with the lawsuit, the Petitioners are seeking to have the court immediately release enough inmates who are at severe risk of illness or death from COVID-19 due to advanced age or pre-existing medical conditions – and inmates who would otherwise be appropriate candidates for compassionate or home confinement – to ensure that the remaining inmates and staff can comply with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines for physical distancing.

The suit alleges that officials at FMC Devens and the BOP have exhibited deliberate indifference to the risk of rampant infection and death that COVID-19 poses to the types of inmates who are housed at the facility. As such, the suit alleges those failures amount to a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment”.

Coronavirus Cartoon

“The ACLU and public health experts have warned that jails and prisons could become incubators for COVID-19,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Indeed, the virus is spreading through correctional facilities around the country, with devastating consequences for imprisoned people, staff, local health care workers, and the broader community. People’s lives are at stake, and we’re asking for immediate action to stem the outbreak.”

Although FMC Devens has not publicly released any information about the number of inmates and staff who have tested positively for COVID-19, the population at the facility is considered particularly vulnerable to the disease. That’s because the facility houses many inmates who are elderly – and many who have serious illnesses.

FMC Devens

 “It is appalling that Devens continues to operate near full capacity in the face of a pandemic,” William Fick, a partner at Fick & Marx. “There is no excuse for failing to immediately release elderly prisoners in their 70s and 80s, those with severe illness or disability, and those who have nearly completed their sentences. If the population of this prison doesn’t decrease significantly, people are going to die”.

Daniel Marx, another partner at the law firm, also noted that an outbreak at FMC Devens could threaten people outside of the facility. “The notion that public safety trumps prisoner health is based on a false choice: failing to stop preventable outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons not only violates the Constitution, but it also threatens all our of lives. This deadly virus doesn’t stop at national borders, and it certainly won’t stop at prison walls. That is why everyone, including prisoners, must be able to practice effective social distancing”.


FMC Devens Has Allegedly Not Discharged Inmates

Despite receiving explicit directions from U.S. Attorney General William Barr, FMC Devens has subsequently discharged very few inmates (As of April 16th, the facility was still running at almost 90% capacity with 906 inmates in its Medical Center – and another 108 in its Camp).

Attorney General William Barr

In his  March 26th memorandum to BOP Director Carvajal, Barr identified home confinement as “One of the BOP’s tools to manage the prison population and keep inmates safe” from COVID-19. He further directed Carvajal “…to prioritize the use of [the BOP’s] various statutory authorities to grant home confinement for inmates seeking transfer in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” because “for some eligible inmates, home confinement might be more effective in protecting their health”.  

It is not known whether any prisoners at FMC Devens have been released per the directives set forth in Barr’s memorandum.

What is known is that the BOP has done a great job of releasing “celebrity inmates” like Michael Avenatti and Michael Cohen out of concern that they may contract COVID-19 while in prison.

Michael Avenatti


Michael Cohen

Petitioners Request for Information and Documents Is Denied

Attorneys for the Petitioners in the Massachusetts lawsuit requested that an emergency status conference be held on Monday, April 20th – and that the Respondents be forced to turn over certain information and documents before then.

The information and documents they were seeking included the following:

  1. The number of available COVID-19 tests at the facility;
  2. The number of N95 masks at the facility;
  3. The number of ventilators at the facility;
  4. All the facility’s written policies and procedures concerning the transfer of prisoners to outside hospitals;
  5. All the facility’s written policies and procedures concerning COVID-19; and
  6. All the facility’s written policies and procedures for identifying and approving prisoners for compassionate release and/or transfer to home confinement.

In addition to the above, the Petitioners’ attorneys also requested the judge to order the Respondents to henceforth file reports every Tuesday and Thursday with respect to the following statistical information at FMC Devens:

  1. The total prisoners at FMC Devens (with the figures broken down for the Medical Center and the Camp);
  2. The number of inmates who have been tested for COVID-19, the results received, and the number of positive cases;
  3. The number of staff who have been tested for COVID-19, the results received, and the number of positive cases;
  4. The number of inmates who have been isolated or quarantined due to COVID-19 symptoms and/or due to exposure to persons with such symptoms;
  5. The number of inmates who have been transferred to outside hospitals for (a) treatment of presumed or confirmed COVID-19, and (b) all other reasons;
  6. The number of inmates who, since March 1, 2020, have died from (a) presumed or confirmed COVID-19, and (b) all other causes;
  7. The number of inmates who, since March 26, 2020, have (a) been approved for compassionate release, and (b) actually been released from the facility; and
  8. The number of inmates who, since March 26, 2020, have (a) been approved for home confinement, and (b) actually been transferred from the facility to home confinement.

The requested status conference has not yet been scheduled. And earlier today, the judge denied, in its entirety, the Petitioners’ request for information and documents.

Stay tuned…we’ll have more to report on this case as it unfolds.


Here is the initial filing in the case: Document 1 – Petition (04.15.2020)


[Editor’s Note: During World War I, the FMC Devens facility operated as Camp Devens – and housed thousands of soldiers. During the so-called Spanish Flu of 1917-1918, more than 15,000 residents at the camp were infected – and more than 800 of them died.]



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K.R. Claviger


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  • Why would the judge deny a status conference….families who have inmates at the facility have a right to know!!!

    • It appears he just denied an “immediate” status conference. Just like he denied the ACLU’s request that the facility be “immediately” required to turn over information and records.

  • Thanks for the updates.

    My general thought is, I don’t know what would make much of a difference short of reducing prison populations by about half. That’s based on general impressions, and a good analysis would need to drill down to specifics, but envisioning what are presumably typical 2-mail cells, it seems like it would take making all of them one-man to address the most obvious of crowded conditions, though that would then mean a lot less people using common areas as well.

    As much as I’m sympathetic to all the people who are innocent or were arguably overcharged, and then could see giving a break to those convicted of non-violent offenses that victimized few people if any (I have no sympathy for those like Madoff and Stanford who wreaked mass non-violent havoc), I’m still not sure how you get to reducing prison populations by half. Also, anyone released would need to have somewhere to go, like with family who would take them back – now is not exactly the time to be picking up a job washing dishes or whatever.

    And I just caught this news – which apparently affects some high-profile cases like that of Michael Cohen:

    Trump administration reverses prisoner coronavirus release policy, advocates say
    “On Monday, some prisoners were told that officials were no longer considering early releases for inmates who have served less than half their sentence.”

  • I’m hoping that John Tighe is released. I believe he was framed. Am I correct in thinking that John doesn’t have much time left to serve? It would be awful if he were to catch Coronavirus but especially cruel when he only has a few more weeks to serve.

  • I’ll say a prayer that Tighe gets out. I hope he is totally vindicated while he’s still alive.

  • Can the coronavirus be spread through farts?

    The smell may be hell but the mist could leave you pissed.

    Two Australian doctors are weighing in about the spread of the coronavirus “down under” — whether it can be spread through farts, that is.

    OH NO!


    Billionaire Branson Asks For Government Money To Save Virgin Atlantic, Claims He ‘Did Not Leave Britain For Tax Reasons


  • Many people believe that John Tighe was framed by NXIVM members involved in computer hacking.

    The co-founder of NXIVM is a fiendish woman named Nancy Salzman who plead guilty to hacking into Rick Ross’ computer.

    Let’s not forget at this point that Nasty Nancy Salzman has a scumbag son in law who recently worked for a Communist Chinese company involved in monitoring the brain waves of school children.

    Ben Myers Gets Job With Chinese Communist Party-Backed Company Doing EEG Experiments on Children; Left Under Suspicious Circumstances

    “Ben Myers, the former Nxivm hacker, was, up until recently, gainfully employed by the Communist Party-backed BrainCo in Boston, Massachusetts for about one year.
    He left recently under suspicious circumstances.
    BrainCo, ostensibly one of China’s leading import and export companies, is involved in the Brain Machine Interface and Artificial Intelligence industry.”

    “The management is associated with the Chinese Communist Party, the United Front and other Chinese Government front groups.
    The company employs NDAs that are similar to Nxivm.
    As reported by multiple employees, Myers tried to gain exclusive access to company infrastructure including user data and sales leads.
    Myers was caught ganging up with other supervisors and management against employees who called him on trying to monopolize the access.
    Myers expressed keen and unnatural interest in the company server.
    Myers and a company executive pitched a number of sales projects aimed at institutions discriminating among people based on their EEG patterns instead of the technologies’ goal of improving focus and mindfulness.
    The prospective clients have connections to wealthy Mexican and Latin American interests.”

  • If you can’t serve the time, don’t do the crime. It is becoming apparent the Wuhan China coronavirus is no worse than the common flu. We’ve never contemplated releasing prisoners because of the flu, why do it with the Wuhan China coronavirus?

  • ” denied medical and dental visits”

    For your own good we are going to deny you medical and dental care.
    Sounds like Communist China already runs our prisons.

    At the same time a study from Los Angeles county, the nation’s most populous county, indicates that the Wuhan virus is more common than thought and less deadly.

    L.A. County Study: Coronavirus Outbreak Up to 55 Times More Widespread, Less Deadly than Predicted
    The novel coronavirus has infected roughly 4.1 percent of the population in California’s Los Angeles County, suggesting the region’s outbreak is far more widespread than previously thought, between 28 and 55 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, new research shows, echoing the findings of a similar study elsewhere in the state.

    However, the new data, if accurate, also indicates that the coronavirus death rate in L.A. County, the most populous in the country, is lower than initially predicted.

    At the first hint of a flu outbreak MARXIST DUMBOCRATS. upset that they could not impeach Donald Trump, go into a frenzy and shut down the national economy causing a national Depression.
    When Donald Trump tries to shut down the borders and punish China for its many Human Rights Violations, steps that should have been done long ago, the MARXIST DUMBOCRATS start yelling “RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA”.

    In the meanwhile the MARXIST DUMBOCRATS try to legalize nation wide vote fraud in the form of ballot harvesting.
    Talk about a disease with a political agenda !

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

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