Written Testimony Before the Senate Judiciary Committee

On April 15, 2021, the Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing concerning the Federal Bureau of Prisons. BOP Director Carvajal testified. Prof. Alison K. Guernsey and Anita Aboagye-Agyeman, an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the District of New Jersey submitted this joint written testimony for inclusion in the record.

Graphing COVID cases in the Bureau of Prisons

Under the supervision of Prof. Alison K. Guernsey, students in the Federal Criminal Defense Clinic have been involved in efforts to obtain compassionate release for numerous individuals who are at risk of infection or death as a result of the pandemic.

As part of that effort, since April 7, 2020, the Clinic has been collecting and graphing the Bureau of Prisons’ daily infection-rate data. The spreadsheet (linked below) contains the daily total number of infected and recovered people in each BOP facility, according to the BOP's website. This data is then graphed to create the "Top BOP Death Traps Chart," which shows the most dangerous BOP's facilities as measured by total COVID-19 cases. The Clinic updates the graph weekly, and the most recent version of the graph and underlying data, can be accessed here at: COVID Cases By Institution (7/23/21)

Of particular note, the red boxes on the spreadsheet indicate that a facility is reporting fewer infections and recoveries than the previous reporting period. If the BOP were keeping a running tally of the total number of infections in its facilities over time, then these numbers would never drop. At the end of March 2021, the BOP admitted that it had been removing people from the infection and recovery totals as they were released from custody. This has resulted in a serious undercount of the total number of infections. Each red box should be viewed as a red flag. 

The previous version of the graph (4/7/20 - 11/30/20), can be access here at: COVID Cases By Institution (up to 11-30-20) 

People who have died in federal custody

The Federal Criminal Defense Clinic has also tracked and recorded the available names of the 258 people the BOP has reported have died from COVID while in federal custody. A list and a bit about each of those people (taking inspiration from the NYT) can be found here: They Are Human Too (6/28/21).

A list of who died after or while seeking compassionate release can be found here: List of Compassionate Release Attempts (6/29/21). This list includes the names of the people the BOP has disclosed in press releases, as well as the names of the 18 people who died while in privately managed prisons with federal contacts. There are at least 14 names missing from this sheet, as there are numerous people who have died who the BOP has designated as "John Doe." 

Law students fight for compassionate release

The law students helping these individuals are directed by Alison Guernsey,  the director of the Federal Criminal Defense Clinic, a clinical associate professor, and a former assistant federal public defender. For Professor Guernsey, “It is impossible to spend a career representing people you know should have another shot at life outside of prison walls and not see litigating compassionate release motions as both a professional and deeply personal obligation.”

Read more about their work and watch the story of Daniel Brown.