News Release 4/24/2020: BOP Tomfoolery! (Trickery, Deception, Deceit)!

Bureau of Prisons Removes Webpage On COVID-19 FAQ Home Confinement

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is under fire from US District Judge Ronnie Abrams (Southern District of New York) to come up with some guidance on how it is addressing the release of certain minimum security inmates in accordance with Attorney General William Barr’s memo of April 3 (CARES Act). Barr directed BOP Director Michael Carvajal to increase use of Home Confinement to reduce prison populations, particularly those institutions hard hit with COVID-19 infections.

In a case in the Southern District of New York, Lewis Stahl, currently in the minimum security camp in Miami, is seeking release from prison. He’s a few months into a 21 month prison term for tax-related charges and is not in the best of health. This week, US Prosecutors told Judge Abrams that Stahl was going to be released in accordance with BOP guidance related to some minimum security inmates. A day later, prosecutors, reversed their position and told Judge Abrams that there was new guidance that made Stahl ineligible for either Home Confinement or a furlough to leave prison. Now, Judge Abrams wants answers as to what the guidance for release was before and after the information she received from prosecutors … so do thousands of other inmates across the country.

Many inmates and their families had been told that the BOP was releasing a number of inmates across the country to reduce crowding and move vulnerable inmates (older and those with underlying conditions) out of prison. The inmates were put on a “list” and told that they were going to be put into an isolation quarantine in advance of release … they were going home. Inmate families fielded calls from Probation Officers confirming residences, inmates filled out information regarding their home address and whether or not they had health insurance available at home. Many were under the impression they were going home, most given a date for when they would be released, until Monday morning when inmates were told that DOJ had changed its guidance with a requirement that they have to served more than 50% of their prison term.

Guidelines For COVID -19 Prison Home Confinement

The closest thing that could be found regarding any publicly available document on guidance related to inmate release, was on the BOP’s own website entitled, “FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING POTENTIAL PRISON INMATE HOME CONFINEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.” (I saved the document, which has since been deleted). While not having the markings of a BOP document, it was located there and answers to a number of questions regarding some guidelines like:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • At least 60 years of age
  • Meet the prison COVID-19 risk factors identified by the CDC
  • Primary offense is not violent, terrorism, or a sex offense
  • No detainer
  • Mental Health Care level of I, II or III
  • Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs (PATTERN) level of
  • Minimum
  • Low or Minimum Security level
  • Served at least 50% of their sentence
  • No incident reports in the last 12 months
  • Have a viable release plan (residence, employment, medical/treatment needs, etc.)

Inmates were told sometime in Mid-April that the 50% requirement for sentence served had been put down to 25%. More inmates were going home.

When I read the debacle regarding the Stahl case, I sent the link to BOP’s Press Office asking if the FAQ page I had referenced a number of times was considered guidance and if so, was there new guidance. I received no answer but the page has since been taken down with the ominous message “Oops, you have reached a door that leads to nowhere.” I could not agree more.

On Tuesday Abrams gave an Order stating that she wants some answers:
“… the BOP now anticipates that Mr. Stahl is no longer eligible for home confinement or a furlough. Given the fact that the Government previously informed the Court that the BOP had already approved Mr. Stahl’s request for home confinement, and the U.S. Probation Offices in both the Southern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida had already approved his relocation request, the Government is hereby directed to provide the Court with an explanation from the BOP, including by way of affidavit from the appropriate representative, as to how the new Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance can affect these prior decisions.”

The government prosecutors were requested to have their answer no later than 5:00pm (eastern) today (April 22, 2020). Judge Abrams also asked that SDNY prosecutors file a copy of the new DOJ guidance on the docket of US v Stahl today as well. It seems the actual document, which could determine the fate of thousands of inmates, alludes even prosecutors. If prosecutors cannot come up with the document, Judge Abrams requested that prosecutors provide her with additional details about the guidance from DOJ including when it went into effect and who it applies to, as well as when it will be submitted to her.

This document could be the only guidance ever seen by the public … or the inmates it effects.


Inmates and Families need assistance now, call 954-740-2253 about the Emergency Prison Release Covid-19 Program!

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