“They killed people.”: The US Federal Bureau of Prisons denied the compassionate release of tens of thousands of people during Covid.U.S. prison

Sean McCidi’s last call from a federal prison was shortly before Christmas 2020, when he had just tested positive for Covid-19.

“If I don’t get out of here, I just know I love you,” his brother remembered him.

McQuiddy is from Nashville, Tennessee and was sentenced to life imprisonment for 23 years for selling cracks. In his case, 20 other defendants had already appeared in court, including his younger brother Darrell, who was commuted a few years ago.

But for technical reasons, 54-year-old Sean wasn’t so lucky. And when the pandemic occurred, he was worried: he was overweight and had high blood pressure, asthma and other breathing problems. In August, he sought a compassionate release from prison officials because of the heightened threat of the virus. However, court records show that the watchman ignored his request.

Tens of thousands of federal prisoners, such as McQuiddy, have applied for a compassionate release after the virus has begun to wipe out lockups. However, according to new prison bureau data, fewer applications were approved during the pandemic than in the previous year.

BOP director 55 such requests in 2019The new director, who took over in early 2020, approved only 36 requests in the 13 months since the pandemic occurred in March 2020. The decline in approvals has occurred, despite the surge in the number of people seeking compassionate releases from 1,735 in 2019 to nearly 31,000. According to the new numbers, the virus was a hit.

The data was edited for parliamentarians, so BOP spokesman Scott Taylor said he would “respect and respect” the parliamentarians and not answer questions about the data.

But Shon Hope WoodGeorgetown’s law professor called the station’s reduced compassionate liberation during the pandemic “feeling overwhelmed.”

“They killed people in prisons where they shouldn’t have had to die,” he said.

Federal judges intervened to release thousands of people in the face of bureau omissions.And the station continues Face intense scrutiny and some proceedings About the handling of Covid-19. Since the first reported case last spring 49,000 federal prisoners became ill and 256 diedAccording to the modified data tracked by The Marshall Project.

The 35 people who died, including McQuiddy, were waiting for a release request decision.

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There are two main routes for people in federal prisons seeking an early release of a pandemic. One is house arrest, which allows low-risk prisoners to end their sentence at home or in a half-baked home. They are still considered detained and the decision is entirely left to the prison bureau. As Covid’s shutdown began last March, Congress expanded its eligibility criteria, ordered by Attorney General Bill Barr. Prison staff to let go of more people.. Since then, more than 23,700 people have been sent to house arrest, but at the end of the pandemic, thousands may have to return to prison.

The other is due to a compassionate release. If the jailer approves the prisoner’s request, the case is sent to BOP’s central office and is usually rejected. If the watchman refuses the request, or if there is no response after 30 days, the imprisoned person can ask the judge to shorten his sentence. New data show that 3,221 people have been released on compassionate releases since the start of the pandemic, of which 99% of those releases were granted by judges against the Bureau’s objections.

Last fall, The Marshall Project Public data It shows that the prison bureau rejected or ignored more than 98% of compassionate release requests during the first three months of the pandemic. Citing the report, a December legislator wrote to authorities requesting more data on both compassionate release and house arrest.

Updated figures outlined in the authorities’ response to Congress in April showed that as the pandemic progressed, BOP observers actually approved slightly less compassionate release requests. In the first three months, observers approved 1.4% of release requests. The central office rejected most of them, and Director Michael Carvajal finally approved only 0.1%. By the end of April, more than a year after the pandemic and more than 200 prisoners died, observers approved 1.2% of the application and Carvajal again approved only 0.1%.

By comparison, a federal judge approved 21% of the compassionate release requests considered in 2020. US Sentence Commission..

TThe McCidi brothers grew up on a project in Nashville and played soccer on a go-kart. Both dropped out of high school and started selling drugs by the late 1980s. Running a crackhouse seemed like a way out of the poverty around them, Darrell McCidi said.

In 1997, both brothers were arrested. Darrell was eventually sentenced to less than 25 years in prison, but Sean was sentenced to life imprisonment for paying a 17-year-old child life imprisonment.

Sean McCidi. “What happened to him was very unfair.” Photo: Courtesy of Darrell McQuiddy

After Congress passed the drug sentencing reform that began in 2010, the brothers began to expect not to die in prison. However, only one of them was subject to a shorter decision under the new law. Darrell took a break for nearly four years because his pre-judgment report mentioned only powdered cocaine in his criminal account. However, Sean’s pre-judgment report also included a crack, so he was not eligible to reduce his decision.

“What happened to him was very unfair,” said Sean’s lawyer, Michael Holly. “This is a crack case where you wouldn’t be sentenced to life imprisonment today.”

THis bureau provides little insight into why he denies compassionate liberation. According to information sent by BOP to Congress, the observer rejected nearly 23,000 requests because the person “did not meet the criteria.” Approximately 3,200 people were rejected as “abnormal and unconvincing” cases, and over 1,200 were rejected because they did not provide sufficient information and documentation. Four met the criteria but were rejected due to “corrective concerns”.

Of the 374 prisoners whose guards recommended a compassionate release during the pandemic, the central authority of the authorities refused or responded to just over 90%, apparently for no reason. “BOP does not track specific reasons for approving or rejecting compassionate release requests at the central office level, as there may be several reasons for a particular decision,” said lawyer Ken. Heil writes. Some of these reasons could be opposition from federal prosecutors, lack of release plans, or fear that releasing someone would “minimize the severity of prisoners’ crimes.” He added that there was.

Prisoners who brought their demands to court usually encountered opposition from federal prosecutors. Allison Garnsey, a clinical associate professor at the University of Iowa Law College, reviewed the cases of all prisoners who died from the virus, including prisoners seeking compassionate release. She said the Justice Department often said that prisoners requesting release could not prove that they first asked the guards. At times, prosecutors argued that prison bureaus are doing their best to deal with pandemics responsibly, or that imprisoned people begging for release are not really at high risk for the virus.

“In court, the prosecutor fought the release and said that this person did not have the conditions to make them vulnerable – and they would die, and the BOP said that the person had the underlying conditions. I will issue a press release saying that I am, “said Guernsey. “The two-sided position of the Justice Ministry, including BOP, is really very shocking.”

In many cases, the judge agreed with the prosecutor’s reasoning. However, in some cases, the judge did not make a decision, or the prisoner died first.


By the time the pandemic broke out, McCidi was in poor health and had already spent several months in a medical prison. Still, he talked several times a day with his brother, who was released in 2015 and started a dump truck company. So Sean wanted to work someday.

He appeared in court when the watchman ignored McCidi’s compassionate request for release. Prosecutors are safer in prison because he has no plans to deal with the most dangerous underlying condition, obesity, and no one in the Arkansas facility where he was trapped has yet died of the virus. I opposed him saying that it would be. “Covid-19 isn’t fatal in most cases,” they wrote in court filings.

But Covid-19 Wipe out the prison A few weeks later, McQuiddy became ill. Christmas has come, and he didn’t call home. Finally, the prison called in late December and told his family that he had been transferred to an outside hospital and fitted with a ventilator. His brother and daughter went to see him, and his lawyer again asked the judge to consider a petition for McCidi’s release. Again, the prosecution opposed it, saying it was unsafe to release him this time because he was already ill.

The judge did not rule for more than a month. Finally, in late January he weighed.

“All pending motions will be rejected as a dispute,” Judge William Campbell sent a letter on January 22, instructing the clerk to close the file.

McKiddy died 11 days ago.

This article was published in partnership with Marshall Project, A non-profit news agency dealing with the US criminal justice system.Sign up for the Marshall Project Newsletter, Or follow them Facebook Or twitter

“They killed people.”: The US Federal Bureau of Prisons denied the compassionate release of tens of thousands of people during Covid.U.S. prison

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