Washington – Michael Fleming was unable to say goodbye to his father. He didn’t know he was fainting while hooked up to a respirator after being diagnosed with coronavirus in federal prison where he was serving his sentence on a drug charge.
Her father, also named Michael, was detained in a federal prison in Los Angeles and died on April 19. At least half of the inmates there have tested positive for the virus, and it has become the largest known outbreak of infection within the federal prison system. But the first news the family received about the father’s illness was when he died, from the prison chaplain who asked if the body should be cremated and where the ashes should be sent.
“They just didn’t give us information,” Fleming said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We had to find out on the news what the real cause of death was.”RELATED
The Federal Prison Agency’s response to the growing coronavirus crisis in prisons has raised alarm among activists and lawmakers over whether the agency is doing enough to ensure the safety of the approximately 150,000 inmates serving a sentence in federal facilities.
And despite the fact that the authorities have said that the rates of infection and deaths within prisons are lower than in the rest of the country, new figures provided by the Federal Prison Agency showed that, of 2,700 tests carried out throughout the system, almost 2,000 have yielded positive results, implying that there are many more cases of COVID-19 that have not been detected.
At the same time, the Federal Prison Agency’s communication policies leave families without information about the life-threatening condition of their relatives.
Fleming, 59, was serving a 20-year sentence on one count of criminal association related to illegal drugs. The agency did not notify Fleming’s family when he was transferred to the hospital or when his condition worsened.
“Having the opportunity to say goodbye, that would have been invaluable,” said his son. “We will never have that opportunity.”
In accordance with Federal Prison Agency policies, the entity must “promptly” notify family members of inmates suffering from serious illness. But the agency, which confirmed that the family was not initially notified, has “discretion about when to make the notifications,” according to a spokeswoman.
Prison officials said they are doing the best they can in extreme circumstances and that they follow guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Wednesday, 31 inmates, including Fleming, had died of the coronavirus in federal correctional facilities since late March. Around 600 have been recovered.