Dear Powers That Be:
We are writing this letter to ask for your support in releasing our Incarcerated Veterans at Federal Correctional Complex Coleman Low, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The A-2 Unit houses all the Veterans at the low security facility, in what is called The Veterans Program. It is the only such program in the whole of the BOP. The program is designed to assist our Veterans with everything they need to ensure a successful re-entry back into society.
The program has been a resounding success. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, negatively impacts the program’s participants and can effect their successful re-entry efforts. A lot of our Veterans have served in wars that’s span from Vietnam to Afghanistan. As a result some suffer from PTSD, other mental health disorders, and a variety of physical health issues. Even though they made mistakes, this is the land of second chances. As a matter of fact, those very same Veterans have served our country to allow the rest of us a second chance, if we find ourselves in need of one. Therefore, no matter what their mistakes were, we owe our Incarcerated Veterans a second chance too.
When they decided to serve our country for the better of us all, they served to defend us, even though they knew we weren’t perfect people and would make mistakes. Coleman Low wasn’t designed with the thought of a pandemic such as COVID-19 in mind. If a list of the least-ideal places in the U.S. to be during this pandemic were to be made, FCC Coleman Low would rank right at the top of the list. These are some of the conditions that our Fallen Heroes, Veterans, people who have served our country are forced to try to survive under:
OVERCROWDING Two years ago an inmate sued the BOP for the overcrowding of FCC Coleman Low. The government admitted the obvious truth that FCC Coleman Low is in violation of every rule –meaning that the prison was unfit even before the pandemic– regarding the housing conditions, to wit:
* There are 170 inmates packed into a space designed to house 90 inmates.
* Five toilets and five urinals, where twelve would be required by the code (Prison Code — not commercial code).
* Three inmates in a space coded for two inmates.
* Two inmates in a space coded for one inmate.
* A lack of common area to accommodate the population.
The BOP’s defense in court was: “We have too many inmates in the prison system.”
We’ll try to give you a visual picture of what our Veterans have to endure through to protect themselves from this very contagious disease: The prison consists of open-bay dormitory buildings. There are no cells. The inmates live in open cubicles. The wall separating one cubicle from the next is about five-feet high. When all three inmates are standing up in their cubicles, they bump against each other, due to lack of space. The inmates sleeping on the top bunks in the cubicles, look down on the inmates in the cubicles next to them. There have been many times that an inmate on the top bunk has dropped his pillow or mouth guard into the face of the inmate sleeping below him, in the cubicle next to him. If the inmate on the top bunk sneezes, every person in the cube next to him will be affected. The urinals are only one and one-half feet apart. There are twelve sinks: a row of six sinks — not even a foot apart — on a wall, paralleling a row of six sinks on a facing wall. Inmates are, literally, rubbing up against the inmates beside them, and bumping into the inmate using the sinks behind them as they brush their teeth, shave, and perform other hygienic duties.
Picture 170 inmates in the morning trying to use five toilets and five urinals, then trying to get to one of the twelve sinks to wash their hands for fear of disrespecting someone else’s space. Simply put, the sink area, where the majority of all viruses are passed in FCC Coleman Low, is the equivalent of a rush-hour subway in New York City. Those type of common areas couldn’t accommodate the inmate population in a perfect times, horribly much less so during a pandemic such as now.
Also, our Veterans are locked down twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They have no open window ventilation (being that they were drilled shut.) Just an old HVAC system that was the cause of a recent legionnaires outbreak within the complex. There are many other issues that affect our Veterans that are in Coleman Low with regard to COVID-19.
As of July 30, 2020, in the A-2 unit, all twenty-two inmates that were tested for COVID-19 tested positive. But they didn’t test the rest of the Veterans in A-2. This is unfair for our Veterans, who have once served our country. We are asking that you let the too many Veterans that are locked down in the prison system to be transferred to home confinement. Most of the inmates at Coleman Low have an average of ten years left. The inmates participating in the A-2 Veterans program have an average of five years left to do. Many of them have three years to a few months left before they’re eligible to come home. Would releasing them to serve out the remainder of their time on home confinement be a threat to society? We think not!
We’re not asking you to release anyone sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole. We are asking you to give a second chance to our Incarcerated Veterans, who once served this country with pride, that made a mistake. And we ask that you DO NOT discriminate against them by the type of mistakes they’ve made.
Out of the 328,200,000 people in the U.S., only 1.3 million are active duty personnel in our military. That’s one-half of one percent of the U.S. population. That means that not many of us are willing to put our lives — or the lives of our kids — on the line to defend this country. But our Incarcerated Veterans were. At one time, these Veterans were willing to die for our country. They enlisted in the military, knowing that there was a chance that they could be called to fight for “US” and, possibly die for our country. At least they would have had a fighting chance at war. They have no fighting chance against the silent enemy that is COVID-19, while locked away in Coleman Low, a place that the health experts say are the worst conditions when it comes to handling the corona virus. It’s time we try and return the favor for our Incarcerated Veterans. They were willing to fight and “DIE” for us. The least we can do is “FIGHT” for them. FREE OUR VETERANS!
Reginald Mitchell and Family & Friends of our Incarcerated Veterans
Editor’s Note: Let’s pass this on to Congressmen, Senators and anyone else you think of who can be helpful. There are too many lives at stake to simply sit around and do nothing.