This week, the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced the death of an inmate named Andrea Circle Bear from Covid-19. In January 2020, a pregnant Ms. Circle Bear was remanded to begin serving a 26-month federal sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. She contracted Covid-19 in custody. On April 1, her baby was delivered by cesarean section. On April 28, Ms. Circle Bear died.
As FAMM President Kevin Ring put it, “[N]othing better demonstrates our mindless addiction to punishment more than the fact that, in the midst of a global pandemic, our government moved a 30-year-old, COVID-vulnerable pregnant woman not to a hospital or to her home, but to a federal prison. Her death is a national disgrace ….”
This “mindless addiction” is particularly stark in Ms. Circle Bear’s case, but it is no less apparent in the actions of the BOP and our local United States Attorney’s Offices as this pandemic unfolds.
The BOP institutions within the Second Circuit, including MCC New York and MDC Brooklyn, have responded to this pandemic with their characteristic mix of ineptitude and indifference. The good news is that civil rights advocates have now brought suits against the MDC, MCC and FCI Danbury to try and improve conditions for the individuals there. These complaints and the ongoing litigation provide valuable insights into the conditions in those facilities right now.
The MCC suit is Fernandez-Rodriguez v. Licon-Vitale, No. 20 Civ. 3315 (S.D.N.Y.). The MDC suit is Chunn v. Edge, No. 20 Civ. 1590 (E.D.N.Y.). The FCI Danbury suit is Martinez-Brooks v. Easter, No. 20 Civ. 569 (D. Conn.).