Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thousands of sick federal prisoners sought release as Covid-19 spread. Nearly all were denied.

As the pandemic ramped up, federal prison wardens denied or ignored more than 98 percent of compassionate release requests, newly obtained data shows.

More than 500 women at Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, fell ill with Covid-19 and six died. Google Maps

By Keri Blakinger, The Marshall Project and Joseph Neff, The Marshall Project
NBC News

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Marie Neba feared dying in federal prison. The 56-year-old had stage 4 cancer — and three children waiting for her at home. “Right now, I can barely walk around because of generalized body pain and feet numbness,” she wrote, as she struggled through chemotherapy earlier this year. “The way things are going regarding my treatments here at Carswell can lead me to my grave.”

But last year when she tried to get a rare compassionate release from Carswell medical prison in North Texas, the warden denied her request. When Covid-19 hit, she tried again with a fresh request on March 30 — and this time the warden ignored her altogether.

In total, 349 women, about a quarter of the prison’s inmates, asked for compassionate release during the first three months of the pandemic. The warden denied or failed to respond to 346 of them, including Neba, who was in prison for Medicare fraud — even though federal guidelines allow compassionate release for terminally ill prisoners if they do not pose a danger to the community. In the months that followed, more than 500 women at Carswell fell ill with Covid-19 and six died. Neba was one of them.  Read more >>