ORLANDO, Fla. — Another inmate has died at the federal prison in Sumter County where hundreds reportedly have coronavirus.
What You Need To Know
- 36-year-old minimum security inmate died Monday
- Federal Bureau of Prisons show hundreds of inmates with coronavirus
- Union vice president says reality at the prison is much worse
- RELATED: Prison Union Leader Says COVID-19 Outbreak at Coleman Worse Than You Think
The Federal Bureau of Prisons says the 36-year-old minimum security inmate, Saferia Johnson, died from the illness Monday after testing positive on July 19. Johnson was serving a 70-month sentence at FCC Coleman’s minimum security facility for tax fraud and ID theft.
An inmate at the medium security facility died earlier this year.
Spectrum News Watchdog Reporter Stephanie Coueignoux spoke with Carol Holmes, Johnson’s aunt.
“I should not be telling my great nephews that their momma is gone, and she’s not coming back,” Holmes shared. “You do a crime ... you need to do your time. But it doesn’t have to be your life! It was her life. She’s gone.”
For months now, our Watchdog team has been reporting on the rising number of cases at FCC Coleman, and asking federal officials why they're not releasing more non-violent offenders to home confinement, despite U.S. Attorney General William Barr's order to do so.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons website earlier Tuesday morning showed 174 inmates at Coleman's minimum security facility had tested positive, while 133 inmates in the medium security facility were infected. In addition, dozens of staffers are also infected.
In the span of two weeks, from July 13 to July 27, cases among inmates jumped by 8,350%. Staff cases jumped by 200%.
According to the BOP, Johnson had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions. As a non-violent offender, she met compassionate release or home confinement criteria.
“She has two little boys that I take care of -- two little boys. They don’t have their mom. Their mom is gone. I believe they killed her. They killed my niece because they did not give her the proper care,” Carol Holmes said.
This is Saferia Johnson & her 2 sons. Johnson died from Covid-19 yesterday at FCC Coleman. A non-violent offender w/pre-existing conditions, she met federal home confinement criteria but died in prison. Cases there ⬆️ Many wonder why more inmates aren’t being released. @MyNews13 pic.twitter.com/KUhwnN9FSS— Stephanie Coueignoux (@StephanieCNews) August 4, 2020
Ludovic Francois says his mother, who is also an FCC Coleman minimum security inmate, was set to be released on home confinement before the BOP reversed its decision. Francois’ mother is currently in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.
“There’d be times at night that I can’t even sleep, because I’m worried about my mother,” Francois said.
After sending our previous Watchdog investigation to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida, he called the skyrocketing cases among inmates and staff “unacceptable.”
“The federal government has a duty to prevent these outbreaks, and we’ll be putting together a letter along with this news coverage — all of it is helpful,” Soto said.
These are only active and open cases, not the total number of cases at the facility. In an interview with Stephanie Coueignoux last month, Jose Rojas, the vice president for the Southeastern Regional Prison Union, said the reality was much worse, and not everyone is tested.
“You’re walking into a mine full of bombs not knowing who is positive and who is not,” Rojas said.
Spectrum News has asked the BOP how many FCC inmates are currently on home confinement, along with how many inmates qualify. A spokesman says they do not release numbers for each facility.
Additionally, we have repeatedly asked the BOP and FCC Coleman officials for interviews. They have declined our requests.
Rep. Soto says he expects to send his letter to the BOP and other agencies by the end of this week.