House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Monday demanding that he try to “release as many prisoners as possible” due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the U.S.
Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and subcommittee chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA) did not stop there with their demands as they told Barr to consider releasing prisoners regardless of the severity of the crimes for which they were convicted and regardless of the type of facility they were housed in.
“We call on you, in the most urgent of terms, to do the right thing and exercise [authority to modify sentences of prisoners who present ‘extraordinary and compelling reasons’] and immediately move to release medically-compromised, elderly, and pregnant prisoners in the custody of the [Bureau of Prisons],” the Democrats wrote. “In addition, we urge that you use every tool at your disposal to release as many prisoners as possible, to protect them from COVID-19.”
The two Democrats then stated that they had a problem with Barr’s memo that said that inmates at low and minimum security facilities should be prioritized and those who were convicted of serious offenses should not be released. The two Democrats stated [emphasis added]:
Your memorandum specifies that priority should be given to inmates in low- and minimum-security facilities and that “serious” offenses should weigh more heavily against consideration for home detention. These limitations, unfortunately, beg the question of what you do with individuals who are at a high risk for contracting COVID-19 who are not in low- or minimum-security facilities, who have been convicted of serious offenses, or who have high PATTERN risk scores. We urge you to consider that even individuals in these categories should be assessed for release because they may be elderly or particularly vulnerable. Pregnant prisoners, in all circumstances, should be released to home confinement forthwith. We further urge you to assess the risk of contracting COVID-19 of every individual in BOP custody, regardless of the type of institution in which they are housed, the seriousness of their offense, or the potential recidivism risk they may present. If BOP decides to keep these individuals detained, what specific provisions are being made for those among them who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19? What plans are being made to communicate information to these individuals, their attorneys, and their loved ones, about the plan for their care behind bars during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Nadler and Bass’s statement that Barr should consider releasing prisoners who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 “regardless of the type of institution in which they are housed” and regardless of “the seriousness of their offense” suggests that they want Barr to evaluate even the most dangerous criminals for potential early release, even those housed at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (USP Florence ADMAX), unofficially known as ADX Florence.
ADX Florence is the country’s only federal supermax prison and houses the most dangerous criminals in the world who are often either sentenced to death or to multiple life sentences. 5280 Magazine highlighted some of the most dangerous criminals in ADX Florence:
- Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, was relocated here after being sentenced to life plus 30 years on international drug trafficking charges earlier in the month.
- Ted John Kaczynski: Domestic terrorist, aka the “Unabomber,” serving eight life sentences.
- Terry L. Nichols: Oklahoma City bomber/domestic terrorist, serving 161 consecutive life sentences.
- Ramzi Yousef & Mohammed Salameh: Two of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; serving life sentences.
- Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev: Terrorist, aka the Boston bomber, sentenced to death.
- Mamdouh Mahmud Salim: Al-Qaida cofounder, serving a life sentence.