The writer is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings. He was sentenced to serve over two years in Federal Prison for a white collar crime, and is scheduled to report next month. He sent me this email last night seeking help – he asked me to post it on prisonist.org. – Jeff Grant
“Why not allow people like me who have been sentenced for nonviolent crimes, but who have not yet reported to prison, be shifted to home detention under the supervision of their probation officers?”
I am scared shitless.
From the outset, I want to point out that I pleaded guilty for my crime, take complete responsibility for my actions and am fully prepared to serve my sentence. I received a 2+ year prison sentence – I did not receive a death sentence.
As I prepare to report to prison next month, I am overwrought with worry about the coronavirus crisis. I am afraid how my own health could be impacted at whatever prison camp I wind up at. Mostly, I am afraid for my family.
I am bit of a germaphobe, so I was already mentally preparing for the uncomfortable living arrangements where toilets and shower facilities are shared. While researching what it would be like to live in a prison camp, I learned that outbreaks of influenza, stomach virus and other infections are not uncommon in these types of environments. I am over the age of 60 and considered part of what is considered a vulnerable group, which provides additional worry of reporting to an environment where open living quarters provide a breeding ground for infections. Add to that the current panic in the media and at all levels of government I fear that I will be further isolated as many prisons are already suspending visitation during this outbreak.
As an individual with a lifetime of mental health issues I have been under psychiatric care and daily medication management since my arrest. What if there is a medication shortage while I’m in prison? The worst thoughts come to mind regarding exposure to the virus and access to any form of acceptable medical care while this craziness continues to spiral. My wife is a nurse and is exposed to many infections on a daily basis. What if I already have the coronavirus and don’t know it, wouldn’t I be putting others at risk? Will my wife, kids, family and friends be at risk in the prison visiting room? There are so many questions that need to be answered but without someone to advocate on the behalf of those in my position I fear we will be forced into a horrible situation that was never anticipated on the day the Judge sentenced me.
Further making my point, my probation officer called me the other day to tell me not to report in person and to check in online till further notice. The Federal government is banning people from courthouses, shouldn’t they enforce the same ban for all Federal buildings including prisons? They already understand the risks. There’s no rule book for dealing with this crisis, the world is facing something it’s never seen before. If new rules are being written, then shouldn’t people on the outside stay on the outside? This information and the many unknowns only escalate my level of anxiety.
With so much still unknown about the coronavirus, I’m not sure if people who are in my position are even being considered at this time. Because of that possibility I feel the need to advocate for myself and others who find themselves living with the same uncertainty. To be clear, I prefer not to put off my sentence as it only delays my opportunity to move past this period and get on with my life. In an effort to avoid getting sick I have already for the most part confined myself to my home. Why not allow people like me who have been sentenced for nonviolent crimes but who have not yet reported to prison be shifted to home detention under the supervision of their probation officers?
Prisons are already overcrowded, and this would be the perfect time to fast track the First Step and Second Chance Acts. I know this may be self-serving but why not provide early release to low level offenders and increase home confinement to those who are preparing to report? This is already happening in other parts of the world in order to stem the outbreak in prisons. If the President is willing to shut down travel to stop people from coming in shouldn’t we do the same at our prisons?
What has become obvious is that what is now been called a pandemic by the World Health Organization has affected our way of life and given pause to almost every industry on our planet. The NBA, NHL and the NCAA cancelled games for the foreseeable future and MLB is delaying the start of their season. It appears that our country is paralyzed with people cancelling travel plans and restaurants that are normally packed with people are practically empty. At what point does the Federal Bureau of Prisons provide a plan for the vulnerable prison population. Are we less important due to our current status? We need answers and need them quickly.
For those of you have loved one’s who are already incarcerated or know someone who is preparing to report to prison please share this. Hopefully this will reach the right people who will intercede on behalf of our forgotten community.
Press Release: World’s First Online White Collar Support Group to Celebrate It’s 200th Meeting on April 13, 2020. Link here.
Federal Bureau of Prisons Coronavirus Webpage: https://www.bop.gov/coronavirus/
Federal Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 Action Plan: https://www.bop.gov/resources/news/20200313_covid-19.jsp
Petition: HOME-CONFINEMENT TO LESSEN CAMPER’S EXPOSURE TO THE DEADLY COVID-19 VIRUS: http://chng.it/DF4JCGfh2b
Some Recent Articles About Prison and Coronavirus:
The Marshall Project: When Purell is Contraband, How Do You Contain Coronavirus? Handwashing and sanitizers may make people on the outside safer. But in prison it can be impossible to follow public health advice, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/03/06/when-purell-is-contraband-how-do-you-contain-coronavirus
NPR: Prisons And Jails Worry About Becoming Coronavirus ‘Incubators’, https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/815002735/prisons-and-jails-worry-about-becoming-coronavirus-incubators
CT Mirror: To contain coronavirus, release people in prison. Do not let Covid-19 become Katrina in Connecticut, https://ctmirror.org/category/ct-viewpoints/joseph-gaylin-noora-reffat-and-arvind-venkataraman/
Business Insider: US jails and prisons are ‘fertile grounds for infectious disease’ and preventing the spread of coronavirus behind bars will be a challenge, say experts, https://www.businessinsider.com/experts-keeping-prisons-free-of-coronavirus-will-be-a-challenge-2020-3
Prison Policy Initiative: No need to wait for pandemics: The public health case for criminal justice reform, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2020/03/06/pandemic/
Government Executive: Federal Prison Employees and Others Question BOP’s Readiness for Coronavirus,https://www.govexec.com/management/2020/03/federal-prison-employees-and-others-question-bops-readiness-coronavirus/163692/
Republican American: Federal and state trials postponed in Connecticut due to virus concerns, https://www.rep-am.com/local/localnews/2020/03/12/federal-criminal-and-civil-court-trials-postponed-in-connecticut-due-to-virus-concerns/