More than 1 out of 3 tested federal inmates were positive for coronavirus

The Bureau of Prisons has increased testing capabilities.

June 16, 2020, 4:37 PM

More than 35% of federal inmates who have tested for coronavirus were positive, according to data from The Bureau of Prisons.

The agency says that of its 16,839 tested inmates, 6,060 have tested positive. In total, the BOP has tested more than 18,000 of its 163,441 federal inmates, with results pending in more than 2,300 cases.

Prisons with high percentages of inmates testing positive for coronavirus are scattered throughout the country.

At Federal Correctional Institution Butner (medium security) in North Carolina, 226 out of 295 inmates tested received positive results. Butner, which holds 880 inmates, is home to ponzi-scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff, who was recently denied compassionate release by a judge despite COVID-19 concerns.

At Federal Medical Center Fort Worth, in Texas, which also been impacted by COIVD-19, nearly 73% of 825 inmates tested received positive COVID-19 results. There are more than 1,300 inmates at the facility. Joe Exotic, from the Netflix docuseries "Tiger King," was moved to the facility in April according to the New York Post, and his lawyers have been petitioning President Donald Trump to pardon Exotic due to COVID-19 concerns.

"At FMC Fort Worth we had our first positive COVID-19 positive inmate on April 8th which soon after that our number escalated to over 650 positive cases," Greg Watts, the FMC Fort Worth union president told ABC News. "I’m very proud of how all of our staff came together and continue to work together to provide safety for the inmates, staff and our community."

He said that the union spearheaded staff testing.

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In a statement to ABC News, the Bureau of Prisons said that testing has helped the BOP manage COVID-19.

"As testing resources have become more available, we are testing our inmate population more broadly, which is helping us to quickly identify and isolate positive cases to rapidly flatten the curve when outbreaks occur. As a result of our expanded testing capabilities and the BOP’s robust pandemic plan, we currently have more staff and inmates recovered from COVID-19 than are positive," a BOP spokesperson said.

PHOTO: In this Oct. 1, 2003, file photo, the entrance to United States Penitentiary in LompocS, Calif. is shown.
In this Oct. 1, 2003, file photo, the entrance to United States Penitentiary in LompocS, Calif. is shown.
Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

The BOP said that demographic information on the inmates who have tested positive wasn't immediately available.

At other prisons, like FCI Loretto, where former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was once held, there were 12 tests conducted and none came back positive. Manafort was released from FCI Loretto last month because of COVID-19 concerns.

And at Otisville, which until recently held former Trump fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen among its 603 total inmates, there were 15 tests completed and 11 came back positive. Cohen, like Manafort, was released due to COVID-19 concerns.

Two facilities in California account for very high percentage of positive cases out of total tests taken -- FCI Lompoc and FCI Terminal Island.

At FCI Lompoc, more than 90% of the 997 tested came back positive, and 70% of 967 tested at Terminal Island also came back positive, accounting for more than 1,600 people at both facilities combined. FCI Lompoc holds 997 prisoners and Terminal Island holds 991.

Other facilities that were sites of the first major outbreaks have seen cases level off.

At FCI Oakdale in Louisiana, which holds 991 inmates, 21% of the 949 inmates tested received positive results for COVID-19.

The Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowtiz has announced he is probing how the BOP responded to the COVID-19 crisis.

Oakdale has come under scrutiny and sources have told ABC News that it is one of the places Horowtiz is focusing.

Last month the facility's warden, Rodney Meyers, was reassigned, according to the BOP. The BOP did not specify why he was removed.

However, this week a union that represents more than 30,000 federal corrections officers filed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaint about the way Meyers handled the COVID-19 outbreak at the federal facility.

The OSHA complaint alleged that he knowingly and willingly failed to isolate inmates who had tested positive for COVID-19.

PHOTO: In this April 29 2020, file photo, the Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution is shown in San Pedro, Calif.
In this April 29 2020, file photo, the Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution is shown in San Pedro, Calif.
Brittany Murray/Long Beach Press-Telegram/MediaNews Group via Getty Images, FILE

"These inmates have been allowed to continue normal daily activities for at least 4 days through the institution to include working in their inmate jobs…" the report says. "By allowing these inmates to 'roam free' across the institution and in these different areas, these inmates are spreading this known contagion to otherwise clean and sanitized areas and to inmates and staff who may not currently be infected."

The OSHA complaint also alleges that Meyers did not properly conduct a "fit test" for employees' N95 masks. Instead, according to the complaint, the facility gave staff cloth masks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommend that correctional officers wear N95 masks, gloves and face shields.

Myers was reassigned to the South Central Regional Office and the BOP told ABC News the matter is under investigation.

FCI Elkton in Ohio -- another virus hotspot, according to the Governor of Ohio -- tested 2,245 of its 2,274 inmates. Of those tested, 575 inmates or 25%, came back positive. Elkton at one time received assistance from the Ohio National Guard to help control the outbreak. It is where Billy McFarland, who rose to fame because he defraud hundreds of people while promoting the Fyre Festival music festival, is being held. The festival was later canceled, much like McFarland's attempt to get out of prison due to COVID-19 concerns.

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