Virus, Despair Sweep Through Federal Women’s Prison

Mendy Forbes, an inmate at Carswell, said conditions at the prison facility are frustrating and scary. – KERA News | CREDIT MENDY FORBES

“We feel basically abandoned.”

No toilet paper, no pads, no soap for hundreds of female inmates

| July 21, 2020

Fort Worth, TX (AP) – More than 500 women at a federal medical prison in Texas have tested positive for the coronavirus, in one of the largest confirmed outbreaks at a federal prison, the Bureau of Prisons said.

The number of confirmed cases at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth jumped to 510 on Tuesday, just two days after the Bureau of Prisons reported that 200 women there had tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Only the federal prison in Seagoville, also located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had more infected inmates, with 1,156 cases as of Tuesday.

“We’re like a whole bunch of hamsters in a cage chasing our own tails,” said Carswell inmate Holli Chapman.

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Three weeks ago, the prison had reported only three confirmed cases of the virus among inmates. One prisoner, Andrea Circle Bear, died in April. On July 12, 69-year-old Sandra Kincaid became the second woman to die there from the virus. The third, 51-year-old Teresa Ely, died Monday.

“We have run out of toilet paper, we have run out of pads. We’ve had no soap for our bathrooms. It is crazy. We get out one time a day for 10 minutes. We walk to the chow hall, we get hot lunch and we come back with bologna every night.” – Inmate Mendy Forbes, Federal Medical Center Carswell ⁠| KERA News 

[Law school graduate Mendy Read-Forbes, 40, of Platte City, Missouri operated a non-profit business that provided educational and other social services. According to federal prosecutors, Read-Forbes met with a federal agent who she believed was a drug dealer and agreed to launder drug money through her business. She was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to launder more than $200,000 in illegal drug money. – The Kansas City Star]

FMC-Carswell holds female inmates with medical and mental health issues. It currently has 1,357 prisoners. Since April, many inmates have told the Forth Worth Star-Telegram that they were concerned the virus could spread through the prison.

One of the inmates who has tested positive for the virus is Reality Winner, a former government contractor who is serving a five-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to mailing a classified report to a news organization.

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Carswell’s administration directed questions to the Bureau of Prisons. The agency said in a statement that it is taking precautions to stem the virus’ spread.

“As with any type of emergency situation, we carefully assess how to best ensure the safety of staff, inmates and the public,” the agency said. “All of our facilities are implementing the BOP’s guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”

Last week, several women at Carswell told the newspaper that the facility did not have enough sanitizing supplies or protective equipment. The women also noted that cells are not immediately cleaned after someone tests positive. Inmate Sandra Shoulders said mattresses used by women who have tested positive are piled up in a TV room.

“We feel basically abandoned,” she said. “(Officers) are saying they’re doing all this stuff for us, that they’re in here with us. But they’re not the ones in 24-hour quarantine, left in a 6-by-6 cell with three other people with 10 minute showers, 10 minutes to be on the phone or email to communicate with their families.”

NSA leaker Reality Winner among 500 women with coronavirus at Texas federal prison

Convicted NSA leaker Reality Winner.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Hundreds of incarcerated women in Texas, including NSA leaker Reality Winner, are at the center of one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks at a federal correctional facility in the country.

At least 510 detainees and three staff at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, have tested positive for Covid-19, data from the Bureau of Prisons shows. That’s nearly 40% of the detainees.

Increased testing at the facility started on July 1 and detainees are having their temperatures taken twice a day, the Bureau of Prisons told CNN in a statement.

Winner, a former NSA contractor convicted of leaking confidential information to the media, is among the detainees who have contracted the virus, her mother Billie Winner-Davis told CNN.

“This could happen to any one of us. Just because someone is an inmate in a prison doesn’t mean that they are less than human. They are still loved,” Winner-Davis said about her daughter, who has not shown any symptoms of the virus.

“Reality, like many other non-violent first offenders, doesn’t deserve this. This is torture. This could possibly even be a death sentence,” she added.

Winner’s attorneys filed a request for her to be released due to the pandemic in April, Winner-Davis says. The request was denied, but an appeal has been filed. Winner is set to be released in November 2021.

Andrea Circle Bear

Three FMC Carswell detainees who had the virus have died since April. A 69-year-old woman and a 51-year-old woman who were placed on ventilators at local hospitals died in the past week, the Bureau of Prisons said. Both suffered from pre-existing conditions.

The third woman, Andrea Circle Bear, died in April and was the first female federal prisoner to die after contracting the virus … Read more. 

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