On March 26, 2020, Attorney General William Barr announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Prisons had “…instituted a comprehensive management approach that includes screening, testing, appropriate treatment, prevention, education, and infection control measures”.
He went on to say that the BOP would immediately start screening all federal prisoners who have COVID-19 risk factors in order to determine which of them might be released early and allowed to finish their sentences on home confinement.
The BOP later issued an announcement on April 5, 2020 indicating that the BOP’s case management staff were “…urgently reviewing all inmates to determine which ones meet the criteria established by the Attorney General” – and that the agency had “…also increased resources to review and make appropriate determinations as soon as possible”.
Based on that information, it certainly sounded like the BOP had fully embraced the idea of protecting federal inmates as much as possible from becoming infected with COVID-19.
It also sounded like the BOP was committed to releasing any inmates who had been convicted of non-violent crimes – and who known risk factors for COVID-19 – to serve out the balance of their sentence on home confinement.
Yep…that’s what it sounded like.
Too bad none of it was true.
BOP Goes Into Lockdown
On April 1st, all 174,000 prisoners in the BOP’s 122 facilities were placed in a 14-day lockdown in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (This was Phase Five of the BOP’s “COVID-19 Action Plan”).
During that 14-day period, most of those prisoners spent 23-hours in their cells – and were only allowed out, at staggered times, for 1-hour for recreation, showers, and access to email (Some prisons only allowed their inmates out of their cells once every 3 days for those purposes).
All meals – many of which were cold by the time they arrived – were served to inmates in their cells.
Commissary and library privileges were either very limited or canceled altogether during the 14-day lockdown.
So were meetings with family members and friends – and even visits with attorneys.
At the conclusion of the 14-day lockdown, the BOP immediately implemented Phase Six of its “COVID-19 Action Plan”.
And what does Phase Six include?
All of the same stuff that went on during Phase Five – except this time the lockdown is scheduled to last for 34 days instead of 14 (The BOP even indicated that, depending on conditions, the current lockdown may be continued beyond May 18th).
Phase Six also included a lot of other carefully worded actions that need to be translated into everyday English before they can be fully understood.
Like “increased hiring” – which really only amounts to the BOP replacing all the guards who have contracted COVID-19.
And “suspension of training” because, once again, the BOP doesn’t have enough uninfected guards to waste time on training activities.
And “deployment of secondary Law Enforcement Officers throughout the agency…to assist with staffing shortages in field location” – which, translated to English, means that the secretaries in the BOP’s administrative offices will be deployed as guards in those prisons that are have had lots of guards infected with the coronavirus.
Looks Like Home Releases Have Been Very Selective
According to a recent report in Forbes, there has not been any widespread release of federal prisoners since Barr first made his announcement back on March 26th.
Instead, Forbes reports that “…there have been no reports of such releases outside of the normal releases that BOP institutions do every week when an inmate’s term is completed (or transferred to a halfway house)”.
But, despite all of the BOP’s failures and blatant lies about what’s going on, a few federal prisoners have, in fact, been released because of their potential susceptibility to COVID-19.
Let’s take a look at who some of those are.
Michael Avenatti is one of the lucky few – and he only got a 90-day pass. Once that’s over, it’s back to federal prison for the former celebrity lawyer.
But former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was convicted of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, has been released to his home in Texas – and will remain there until March 16, 2023. He started serving his 10-year sentence in September 2014.
And 23-year-old rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine – whose real name is Daniel Hernandez – also got released early because he suffers from asthma and was once hospitalized for bronchitis.
A couple of New York State lads hit the go-home-early lottery. One was former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, age 72, who will serve the balance of his 51-month sentence at home – and the 59-year-old Carl Logan who was doing a 12-year bid for cocaine trafficking.
Another seemingly lucky New York State lad, Michael Cohen, had his early leave canceled on the day before he was scheduled to go home. Cohen, who is serving a 3-year term, also received a letter from President Trump’s attorneys demanding that he “cease-and-desist” writing a tell-all memoir about his interactions with Trump. The BOP has refused to comment on why Cohen’s early release was rescinded – or whether it had anything to do with his memoir.
Lots of Turndowns for Early Release
Meanwhile, lots of federal prisoners have had their request for an early release turned down flat by the BOP.
People like the 53-year-old R. Kelly – who is awaiting multiple trials on sex-related charges.
Martin Shkreli – AKA “Pharma Bro” – who even offered to work on a cure for COVID-19 if he were allowed to go home early – also had his request rejected.
So did Gilberto Rodriguez, the 81-year-old former chieftain of the Cali cartel, who is about half-way into his 30-year sentence.
Ditto for Leigh Winner, the National Security Agency analyst who is serving a 63-month sentence for leaking material about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
And Cincinnati investment advisor Glen Galemmo, who has served about one-third of his 15½ year sentence for running a Ponzi scheme that bilked 140 families out of millions of dollars, also got rejected.
As did ex-FIFA soccer honcho Juan Angel Napout who is serving his 9-year term at a federal prison in Miami.
And Genaro Garcia Luna, the 51-year-old former top cop in Mexico, who is currently housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY while he awaits trial on charges that he accepted millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa cartel.
A Couple of Requests for Early Release Are Still Pending
John Matera, the Gambino mob soldier who pled guilty to conspiring to whack a federal witness, has asked to be released from the federal prison in Danbury, CT where he’s serving his 20-year term. No decision has been announced as of yet on his request.
And David Thai, the former Born To Kill gang kingpin who was sentenced to life for murdering a witness and committing a string of robberies in Chinatown in NYC. He is currently housed at Devens FCI – which is also where John Tighe is serving out his term (It is not known if John applied for early release).
And let’s not forget Bernie Madoff, the King of Ponzi schemers who had asked a federal judge for compassionate release even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. According to court filings, Madoff, who is about 11-years into his 150-year sentence, has terminal kidney cancer – and has less than 18 months to live. No ruling has been issued in his case as of yet.
Stay tuned…In the next installment in this series, we’ll take a look at what’s really going on in federal prisons with respect to COVID-19. And as shocking as it may seem, that reality is very different from the BOP’s claims.