Federal Pot Prisoner in Kentucky Dies of Coronavirus

Last week, a man incarcerated for a cannabis offense died of COVID-19.
Three Prison Guards Arrested For Smuggling Weed, Other Contraband Into Prison
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Fidel Torres, 62, would have walked free in less than two years. Instead he died on May 20 in the Federal Medical Center in Lexington Kentucky from complications related to Covid-19. 

Convicted on conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana, Torres is among several pot prisoners to die while in prison for a crime that is practically legal in most states. 

“He never should have gone to prison for pot in the first place,” said Amy Povah, founder and president of the CAN-DO Foundation

“All pot prisoners should be released immediately, for logical reasons. People are making billions of dollars selling pot legally and others are rotting in jail for long periods. The whole situation is beyond unfair and unjust.” 

Torres, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), tested positive for COVID-19 on May 2, was admitted to a local hospital on May 6 and placed on a ventilator. He died from septic shock caused by Covid-19-related pneumonia on May 20, the same day that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sent home after spending one year in prison.

Relatives and groups such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) say there are hundreds of thousands of prisoners without influential contacts who also meet the requirements for release yet are still languishing behind bars. 

“Fidel Torres was 62 years old and was nearing the end of a lengthy sentence for selling marijuana. He seems like a poster child for home confinement,” Kevin Ring, director of FAMM, told the Huffington Post.

Cases like Torres’ show that the BOP needs to do more to expand home confinement to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ring noted. 

 “Even if one assumes the BOP is acting with the best of intentions, its decision-making process is impossible to understand,” Ring said.

As far as Amy Povah is concerned, the BOP and Department of Justice (DOJ) are not acting with the best of intentions. 

“This tragedy will go down in history and those responsible have blood on their hands. Both DOJ and BOP,” Povah told High Times.

COVID-19 In American Prisons

As of May 20, 2020, 59 federal prisoners had died from COVID-19 and more than 4,600 have tested positive, though health experts believe the actual number is likely much higher.

The BOP does release such data and, according to the Marshall Project, does not have a clear policy on who qualifies for release and why.

Torres had recently qualified for a reduction of his 220-month prison sentence. That, in addition to the fact that he had already served 10 years of his 18-year sentence begs a question: why wasn’t he released once the coronavirus began to sweep the nation? That would have been in keeping with the BOP’s own recently adopted guidelines. 

In a Bureau of Prison filing on April 22, 2020, the BOP noted that in view of the spread of Covid-19, it was “at this time prioritizing for consideration those inmates who either (1) have served 50% or more of their sentences, or (2) have 18 months or less remaining in their sentences and have served 25% or more of their sentences.”

Torres fell into the latter case, having already served 50% percent of his sentence yet he was not offered home confinement or compassionate release.

Georgetown Law professor Shon Hopwood, an expert on criminal justice reform, said the BOP doesn’t answer questions and keeps shifting policy on who qualifies for release and who gets left behind. 

“The Bureau of Prisons is operating all behind closed doors, and that’s a big part of the problem,” Hopwood said in a recent Marshall Project report.

While very few receive jail sentences for minor marijuana possession, there are currently over 40,000 people serving time in jails and prisons for marijuana offenses.

In its report, “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) points out that: “More than six million arrests occurred between 2010 and 2018, and Black people are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana.”

Steve DeAngelo, founder of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California and a co-founder of the Last Prisoner Project, produced a worth-watching YouTube video calling on all of us to consider the plight of cannabis prisoners during this pandemic.

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2 comments
  1. who or how do we contact to get a family member out during this covid time? my father has served over 50% of his sentence, is 60 years old and immunocompromised and still in Lexington FMC. No one there will offer help on how to get him out on home confinement to prevent this from happening!

    1. Use the Drug Laws to fight for you by exposing the hypocrisy that proves cops are . . . . these kinds of people. I’ve been writing to Politicians about legalizing meth, heroin etc since 2008 because it’s wrong to molest children and fly airplanes into buildings on 9/11. If you are not constantly thinking about the 1961 U.N. Drug Laws, then your father is doomed to rot. If you cannot prove that the DEA work for Al Qaeda etc because of the November, 2008 Mumbai, India Terrorist Attack led by master-mind DEA snitch and Amerian born citizen, David Headley–then your father cannot leave. HSBC Bank used Taxpayer bailout money (along with Wachovia) to pay their fines for laundering drug money to Muslim Terrorists in 2010. It is illegal to jail people for laundering Drug money now.

      How many politicians do you write to about the facts and in relation to how it is illegal for your father to be in Jail? Are you talking to any U.S. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? They have the knowledge to get the words you need to unlock his CELL. It is illegal to keep drugs illegal if it is illegal to rape children or fly airplanes into buildings. That’s not All. What do you know about Tuscon Arizona, May 2011? A Marine vet murdered for possible possession of pot by SWAT at his home.

      Are you going to Drugwarrant.com to learn? Are you a part of LEAP? If you ever do anything for entertainment on your cellphone or on your computer internet, then you are holding the bars closed for your father. I’ve been writing about freeing your father since 2008 and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the man, so God Bless him. How long are you willing to write to everybody, demanding we legalize Meth, etc to cleanse the war on Drugs out of the World. If you only think Pot should be legal, then your father Got what he deserved and needs to do his time. But if you think its wrong to hurt children in Mexico, Compton, Dallas, Baghdad, then you’ll be a bigger help at freeing your father by supporting all drugs be legalized since most of your ammunition is spread out in the overall War on Drugs.

      The Battle of Athens, Tennesse 1946. Cops doing this to people isn’t new.

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