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 (10/08/21)

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 280 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 (10/11/21).

A list of who died after or while seeking compassionate release can be found here: List of Compassionate Release Attempts (10/11/21)

Here is a quick breakdown of the numbers as of October 11, 2021: 

  • 280 people have died from COVID-19 in the federal Bureau of Prisons or while in a private prison with a federal contract. This number includes the 262 people listed on the Bureau of Prisons website, and the 18 people whose names we learned through the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") process. The FOIA was obtained by Keri Blakinger, a staff writer for The Marshall Project. This number does not include people who have died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") facilities. 
  • The Bureau of Prisons has published press releases for 243 of the people who have died in federal custody. One person is listed as a "John Doe" in the press release, so we know the names of only 242 of the 280 people who have died in federal facilities. Added to the 18 people we know about who died in private prisons, we have the names of 260 people who have died. 
  • Of those 260 people we can track, there are 70 who filed a motion for compassionate release with the federal courts. Three of those motions were granted, but the people were not released in time. This number does not reflect the people who filed requests for compassionate release with the Bureau of Prisons and did not file in federal court. 
  • Of those 260 people we can track, there are at least 7 people who had not filed a motion for compassionate release at the time of their death, but who had either retained a lawyer to file a motion or asked the court for a lawyer to help. Whatever help they were able to get, however, came too late. 
  • Of the 260 people we can track, public information reveals that one person appears to have been fully vaccinated: Rasheem Hicks
  • Of the 260 people we can track via Bureau of Prisons' press releases, 32 people had "recovered" from a COVID infection at the time they died:
    • 1. William Andrew Davison
    • 2. Chad Noziska
    • 3. Jaime Benavides
    • 4. Leonard Williams
    • 5. Fernando Trujillo
    • 6. Shauntae Hill
    • 7. Harry Cunningham
    • 8. Kevin Gayles
    • 9. Carmelo Estrada
    • 10. Christopher Carey
    • 11. Barry Johnson
    • 12. Ricky Lynn Miller
    • 13. Marie Neba
    • 14. Adrian Solarzano
    • 15. Paul F. Archambault, Sr.
    • 16. Revardo White
    • 17. Larry Harris
    • 18. Laura Ann Palpallatoc
    • 19. Manuel Roach
    • 20. Carlous Lindell Daily
    • 21. Sherri Renee Hillman
    • 22. Roy Curtis Berry
    • 23. Gary Johnson
    • 24. Ikaika Ryan Chung
    • 25. Richard L. Blanchard Sr.
    • 26. Armando Ramirez
    • 27. Stacy Bonds
    • 28. Johnny Walter Spragg
    • 29. Robert Neal Hatchell
    • 30. Tavoris Delancy
    • 31. Elize Parker 
    • 32. Frank Locascio

 

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.