Family of inmates at Butner prison argue conditions aren’t safe amid COVID-19 outbreak at facility

Durham County News

BUTNER, N.C. (WNCN) — Butner Federal Prison in Durham County has the most COVID-19 cases of any federal prison in the United States, as of the Bureau of Prisons last count on Wednesday.

People with family incarcerated there say a decision from the BOP on home confinement can’t come soon enough.

Officials say at least 42 inmates and one staff member on the medium-security side of the prison have COVID-19.

There are 15 cases on the minimum security side and at least one confirmed case at the medical center.​​

The Bureau of Federal Prisons tells CBS 17 it’s looking into home confinement for at-risk inmates at Butner. ​​

“This Butner camp has surged and I think it needs to be a top priority,” said Morgan Williamson, who’s father is at Butner. “Someone needs to go in there and really see what’s going on.”​​

Williamson said the prison is overcrowded and that inmates from another unit were relocated to her dad’s camp.

She explained, “You’re making these people get closer together. I mean, you could just reach and touch someone. This is not following the CDC guidelines. It’s making it worse.” ​​

When CBS 17 asked the Bureau of Federal Prisons about those conditions, we were told the prison is minimizing gatherings, has increased screenings and social distancing, and has provided surgical masks to staff and inmates. ​​

The bureau also released this statement

We have already placed 615 inmates in home confinement since the release of Attorney General Barr’s original memo to the BOP on March 26, 2020 instructing us to prioritize home confinement as an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 3, the Attorney General exercised emergency authority under the CARES Act to further increase home confinement. There are currently 3,419 inmate on home confinement and 7,199 inmates in Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs). The BOP has increased home confinement by over 40% since March and is continuing to aggressively screen all potential inmates for home confinement. Facilities similarly situated to FCI Oakdale, FCI Danbury, and FCI Elkton, to include Butner, are reviewing all inmates with COVID -19 risk factors to determine if they are suitable for home confinement.

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Amanda Toney said her fiancé Brad never got one.​ “The way I see it, he’s serving his time for a crime he committed,” Toney explained. “But he’s not on death row, so why should he be at risk?”​​

Williamson fears COVID-19 will continue to spread inside the prison.​ She explained, “It’s like throwing a march in there setting a wildfire saying good luck to you.”

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