A Just Cause

Overcrowded Colorado Federal Prison Camp Presents Serious COVID-19 Threat to Staff and Inmates

Federal Prison Camp's Refusal to Release Inmates Under First Step Act Increased Coronavirus Threat


Denver, CO -- (ReleaseWire) -- 04/08/2020 --The methods being used by the BOP to isolate inmates in cells is sufficient for medium and high institutions but wholly insufficient for the overcrowded Florence Federal Prison Camp (FPC) which only houses non-violent inmates. Social distancing is impossible at FPC Florence. Non-violent CAMPERS(not really inmates) at Florence FPC (which has no bars, cells, walls or fences) have been put at greater risk to contract COVID-19 because its officials have instituted a lockdown of the camp and thereby created a "social crowding" environment, not a social distancing one. Florence officials are not totally at fault because the original design of FPC Florence housing units has created an intractable problem for BOP officials to effectively implement social distancing. The fact that FPC Florence is overcrowded exponentially complicates social distancing solutions which is why home confinement of a reasonable number of campers is critical to successfully implement social distancing. "Since the BOP classifies prison camps as out-custody facilities and permits these non-violent, non-threatening campers to work in the local community and attend job fairs without BOP staff supervision, it should be a no-brainer for the BOP Director to release many of them to home-confinement to effectively implement social distancing," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director of A Just Cause. "Furthermore, Florence, Colorado's high altitude of over 5000 feet means there is less oxygen in the air which puts campers and correctional officers are at greater risk of not be able to breath without a ventilator due to COVID-19's crippling effect on the lungs' ability to oxygenate," adds Banks. "There is absolutely no reason to continue threatening the lives of numerous campers with COVID-19 when they have a home to be released to and are not a danger to the community," exclaims Banks

FPC Florence was originally designed to house 250 campers but currently houses over 400. First, the 400+ inmates at FPC Florence are in housing units with open bay-style ranges comprised of 7ft by 11 ft cubicles with 5ft 8in walls. Each of these small, crowded cubicles houses 2 inmates and is furnished with 2 twin size bunks, 2 lockers (2ft x 18ft x 3ft) and a desk (15in x 2ft 5in x 2ft 5in). Some cubicles actually house three inmates due to overcrowding. FPC Florence inmates share the same restrooms, showers, phones and email computers. FPC Florence is an anathema to social distancing and can easily serve as a fertile breeding and spreading ground for COVID-19. Instead of allowing the inmates time outside to walk the track or exercise, BOP officials lock them inside the crowded housing unit with staff from the outside world and increasing the likelihood of transferring or collecting germs from doorknobs and other hard items being continually touched by staff and others. By being locked 24 hours per day in the housing units, camp inmates are being denied fresh air and forced to continuously inhale germs and cigarette smoke that flows through a recycled air ventilation system. Florence FPC houses inmates with severe lung diseases and partial lungs, some of whom use nebulizers daily to help them breath.

FPC Florence would not be nearly as crowded if the Florence officials had fully complied with the First Step Act (FSA) instead of being apathetic. Numerous Florence FPC inmates have been assessed under the FSA and were found to be a minimum risk of recidivism, entitling them to 10 days per month/two-thirds off their sentence. "Florence officials and other BOP staff around the country chose to be deliberately insubordinate to President Trump, Jared Kushner and members of Congress who worked hard to pass the First Step Act," asserts Banks. "Now, amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, both BOP correctional officers and the inmate population are at a greater risk of sickness and death because officials refused to follow the law," adds Banks. "There are actually inmates with lung diseases and partial lungs at Florence FPC, some of whom use nebulizers daily to help them breath," exclaims Banks.

According to sources at the Florence FPC, case managers have informed numerous inmates that they qualify to be released under the First Step Act but have not been given the go-ahead by the BOP Director to release them. "If there is ever a time for President Trump to issue an executive order for the release of inmates who the BOP is unlawfully detaining in violation of the First Step Act, the time is now," says Banks. "Especially starting with the lawful release of those inmates entitled to relief under the act that have homes in the state where they are incarcerated and can be easily transported by their family to the safety of that home," adds Banks.

Prior to the Coronavirus spread into the U.S., A Just Cause and New York attorney Bernard Kleinman have demanded in both verbal and written communications to the BOP that they abide by the First Step Act and release Florence FPC inmates Demetrius Harper, David Banks and David Zirpolo who are three of five men known as the IRP5 (formerly "IRP6") who, according to a former federal appeals judge H. Lee Sarokin are innocent and were wrongly convicted and harshly imprisoned for 7 to 11 years as a result of government misconduct (See judge's comments in Washington Post at www.wapo.st/29jXqSC). Sarokin said the IRP5 wrongful conviction was the worst injustice he's ever seen in the federal justice system.

The deeply troubled Sarokin sent a personal letter to President Obama requesting clemency for the IRP5. Sarokin wrote to Obama that a "grave injustice" had occurred with respect to conviction and imprisonment of the IRP5 and explained the absurdity of the government's charges and the misconduct used to win a conviction. Obama disregarded Judge Sarokin and did nothing about the grave injustice the IRP5 suffered at the hands of his Justice Department. Other prominent advocates close to Trump are now seeking a pardon on behalf the IRP5.

Clinton Stewart (IRP5) is one of the very few inmates to be released by Florence FPC under the FSA's provision to home confine elderly inmates 60 years of age and older who have served two-thirds of their sentence. The video of Stewart's celebratory release with a large crowd went viral with over 4 million views on the Internet, including a retweet by President Trump (Video at http://bit.ly/2FlNYvR).

"Unlike Harper (46 years-old), Banks (52 years-old) and Zirpolo (56 years-old), Clinton Stewart's health and well-being is not being compromised by the BOP's refusal to fully comply with the First Step Act and its inconsiderate COVID-19 response to the Florence federal prison camp," says Banks. "I am hopeful that President Trump will immediately free these innocent men who have spent the past seven and a half years in prison and who now are facing new threats to their health and well-being at the hands of Florence FPC officials mishandling of the Coronavirus threat," concludes Banks.

For more details about the IRP5 case and Judge Sarokin's writings go to online dossier at http://bit.ly/2wBaCyJ