President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort got out of federal prison Wednesday to serve in home confinement, but thousands of eligible inmates remain behind bars despite federal orders to release them to reduce infections and deaths caused by coronavirus in prisons.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has refused to disclose any details about which federal inmates have been granted release to home confinement under ongoing emergency orders issued March 26 and April 3 by U.S. Attorney General William Barr. The Florida Phoenix requested that data April 28 and was denied it.
Bureau of Prisons spokesman Justin Long responded: “Given the fluid nature of the pandemic situation, we are just providing the total number of inmates transferred to home confinement across the BOP.”
The Bureau of Prisons website did not reflect Manafort’s release to home confinement Wednesday, which was announced by his attorneys and reported by national news media, including ABC News and the Washington Post. The BOP website indicated he is still in prison, scheduled for release in November 2024.
Manafort, 71, had served less than half of his 7.5-year sentence for multiple counts of bank fraud and tax fraud, according to the New York Times.
The BOP reported through Wednesday that it had released 2,549 inmates to home confinement from its 122 prisons nationwide, about 1.4 percent of the pre-pandemic population, and is still incarcerating about 169,000 inmates.
Through Wednesday, 52 of the federal prisons reported: 51 inmate deaths due to COVID-19; 2,820 confirmed infections among inmates; and 266 confirmed infections among employees. That includes confirmed infections at five of the nine federal prisons in Florida.
The federal prison that held Manafort in Loretto, Penn., reported no infections at all through Wednesday, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
Meanwhile, Danbury Correctional Institution in Danbury, Conn., had dozens of infections among inmates and employees, and one inmate was killed by COVID-19, but few releases. A federal district judge ruled late Tuesday that prison officials there had failed to identify inmates at elevated risk of contracting and dying of COVID-19 who are eligible for release to home confinement, according to court records.
U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea ordered prison authorities at Danbury Correctional Institution in Danbury, Conn., to identify to him within three days all inmates at elevated risk due to age and/or infirmity who could be released to home confinement under Barr’s emergency orders.
“Especially in light of the Barr memos, it is unimaginable that the respondents [prison authorities] would not be taking COVID-19 medical risk factors – some of which, by some estimates, give an inmate a better than 10 percent chance of dying should the inmate contract COVID-19 – into consideration in reviewing inmates for home confinement,” Shea said in his ruling.
“In short, by failing to make meaningful use of her home confinement authority, the warden [Diane Easter] has failed to implement what appears to be the sole measure capable of adequately protecting vulnerable inmates – a measure the Attorney General directed the BOP to implement ‘immediately’ and with ‘dispatch’ – in favor of measures that, even if they were fully and painstakingly implemented, would still leave vulnerable inmates subject to a grave risk to their health,” Shea wrote.
Attorneys for four inmates at Danbury Correctional Institution (a complex of one men’s prison and two women’s prisons) filed a class-action lawsuit on April 27 in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut demanding that prison authorities release all inmates there who fit the criteria spelled out by the Attorney General, according to court documents.
The criteria – designed to protect at-risk inmates from infection without releasing inmates who pose an ongoing threat to public safety – include an inmate’s age, health status, offense, time served, and behavior during incarceration, according to the Barr memos.
Court records in the Danbury lawsuit say less than 20 percent of inmates at Danbury CI had even been screened for possible home confinement through May 5 and that only 21 of the 159 screened had been released.
To reduce risk to the general population, Barr’s memos require that inmates preparing for transfer to home confinement stay in quarantine for 14 days before they leave the prison.