(Global Intel Hub - Butner, NC) Barry Taylor (inmate, from the inside) --
On late 2018 Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the First Step Act. Inmates and their family finally felt some relief and compassion would be given by the FBOP. The intent of the First Step Act was to allow elderly Federal inmates that had not been convicted of a violent or sexual crime and had served 2/3's of the sentence with underlying medical conditions to be released to home confinement. This action was considered a Reduction in Sentence (RIS) or Compassionate Release (CR) that would be beneficial to both the inmate and the US taxpayers. The inmate would be back home under the control of local parole officers and the taxpayers would not have to pay the approximately $38,000.00 per year for food, shelter and clothing of the inmate. In addition, the taxpayers would not have to pay the medical bills of the inmate that frequently exceed $1,000,000.00 for treatment of cancer and other expensive illnesses.
On January 19, 2019, the FBOP adopted the guidelines for determining which medical conditions would qualify for the inmate to be released under the First Step Act. These medical conditions the inmate must have 1) A Terminal Medical Condition, 2) A Debilitated Medical Condition or 3) Be Elderly, 65 or older, with Medical Conditions and have served 50% of their sentence. The FBOP medical staff would make these determinations. The actual position the FBOP medical staff took was that an inmate had to prove they were dying and complete the process within 12 to 18 months in order to qualify medically. Even then some inmates were not approved and died in prison in less than 18 months from their application for RIS or CP.
In order for an inmate to apply for a RIS or CP they sent written request to their Social Worker and Case Manager. In theory, the Social Worker would determine how the inmate would perform back home and the Case Manager would determine if the inmate, due to their status, qualified under the First Step Act. IF the inmate met the approval of the Social Worker and the Case Manager then the medical department within the prison where the inmate was located would determine if the inmate qualified medically. The inmate would then apply to the Warden for RIS or CP. Thousands of inmates throughout the FBOP applied for RIS and CP. Hundreds were in wheelchairs, walkers and canes and were being treated for dozens of severe medical conditions.
In reality, the FBOP medical departments denied an estimated 98% of all applicants, even though it was obvious that these inmates met the medical intent of the First Step Act along with the other provisions. In 2019, less than 400 inmates nationwide were voluntarily released by the FBOP under the First Step Act. Even when the FBOP did grant a RIS or CP to an inmate, they delayed their release date up to six months. More federal inmates died waiting for RIS or CP or died shortly after being released by the FBOP, than were released by the FBOP.
Under the First Step Act an inmate denied by the FBOP for RIS or CP, if they had the financial ability, could file in court for an order demanding the FBOP release the inmate. More inmates have been released through court order than the FBOP has voluntarily released. When you read the number of inmates released under RIS or CP provided by the FBOP you get the total number voluntarily released, court order released AND the number of inmates that have served their maximum amount of time and had to be released anyway. The appearance is presented that the FBOP is complying with the First Step Act when the reality is far from it. Even if you look at the total number currently used by the FBOP of some 1,200 inmates released since the First Step Act was passed, it's less than 1% of the number of inmates within the FBOP.
In March, 2020, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the Cares Act. This act was intended to clarify the intent of the First Step Act, again directing the FBOP to immediately reduce the elderly inmate population with medical conditions. The Cares Act eliminated the 2/3's requirement for sentence served and clearly stated that inmates that were eligible by the First Step Act, had a minimum grade for recidivism and under the threat of the COVID-19 should be granted a RIS or CP immediately. The FBOP in 2019, graded each inmate to determine if they qualified under the First Step Act and if their recidivism grade was minimum. It was then clear under the Clears Act and First Step Act grading which inmates qualified for RIS or CP.
On April 17, 2020, management staff at Butner Low Security Correctional Institute announced to each of the eight Units housing inmates that if they met the requirements outlined under the Cares Act and First Step Act they should be released on a RIS or CP. Mr. Clark spoke to Vance B Unit. Once his announcement was over, I spoke directly to Mr. Clark. I was told that since I was graded eligible for the First Step Act and had graded at minimum recidivism, plus met all of the other requirements under the Cares Act, that I should be transferred to home confinement. I'm still waiting for transfer to home confinement. It was clear with the number of FBOP inmate infections and deaths from the COVID-19 that elderly inmates and inmates with medical conditions were at high risk. It was also clear that a fairly high number of other inmates would qualify for the RIS or CP.
On April 20, 2020 the FBOP released a memo on Trulinks, the inmate email system, stating "However, there will have been no changes to the BOP's Reduction in Sentence (RIS) criteria based on the Cares Act and possible exposure to the COVED-19."
Meaning inmates were back to the same process as previously existed where the FBOP medical staff made the determination ultimately which, if any, inmate qualified. Since NO inmates at Butner LSCI have been released under the Cares Act and most of the inmates released since 2018 under the First Step Act were those released by court order, the likelihood for an inmate to receive a RIS or CP was slim.
On April 21, 2020, Associate Warden Mr. Engel announce that "The FBOP at Butner LSCI will not be releasing inmates under the Cares Act". "However, there are three inmates being released under the Cares Act due to their court ordering the release".
Why does the FBOP refuse to comply with the First Step Act and Cares Act? 1) Self preservation. If the inmate population is reduced there must also be a reduction in the number of staff within the FBOP. 2) Federal prison is a billion dollar business and the relationship between staff and government contractors doing business with the FBOP is comingled. 3) The knowledge of the Justice System by most FBOP staff is limited. They don't understand the nature of the lengthy sentences given to inmates and how they were determined. The management staffs attitude toward inmates is the court sentenced them to the time and the inmates should serve every day.
The FBOP has thus refused to comply with the First Step Act, Cares Act, rebuffed Attorney General Barr, and sent a message to President Trump and Congress that they make the decisions within the FBOP. Unless Attorney General Barr fires every Warden that refuses to immediately implement the First Step Act and Cares Act or President Trump executes an explicit Executive Order, the FBOP and inmate status will remain the same. Inmates will continue to die in prison from their medical conditions and COVID-19, taxpayers will still pay billions for inmate food, shelter, clothing and medical care. There will be few Reduction in Sentences or Compassionate Releases granted by the FBOP.
Barry Taylor 32452-058
Butner Low Security Correctional Institution
PO Box 999
Butner, North Carolina 27509
I would appreciate each of you sending this information to as many news organizations as possible.
On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, Associate Warden Engel announced "only three" of the 1250+ inmates at Butner LSCI qualify for transfer to home confinement under the Cares Act. The low number qualifying for transfer to home confinement was due to the additional requirements placed upon inmates by the FBOP that are not part of the Cares Act. Much like the first Step Act passed in 2018 in which the FBOP also made it more difficult for inmates to qualify for transfer to home confinement, these new requirements are solely intended to keep the inmate population as high as possible. Butner LSCI does not see COVID-19 as a threat to inmates with heart, lung, liver, kidney, low immune system or other health issues.