The Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon (FCI Sheridan) is on lockdown due to Coronavirus fears. No inmates or staff members are known to actually have COVID-19, but obviously Warden Josias Salazar does not want to take chances. Putting the prison on lockdown at a time like this is obviously the right decision, but if or when Coronavirus infects its first inmate that lockdown will do little to stop the spread of the disease. By the time they find out that anyone has the virus countless other inmates would have already been exposed anyway. The lockdown might contain something like Coronavirus to one housing unit temporarily, but that is it. Still, the staff would have exposed each other by the time anyone finds out there is an outbreak. Despite this bleak outlook the lockdown is still the right choice, but even this decision leads to new criticism for the BOP.
Inmates have been harming themselves and at least one inmate has committed suicide. Federal Public Defender Lisa Hay is using this to highlight the impact that lockdowns have on the mental health of inmates. She has a good point. Mentally ill inmates are more likely to become worse on lockdown. It happens in solitary confinement, in the hole where you usually have a celly, and in general population if left on lockdown spending all your time in a bathroom with another man. Hay has been trying to get people at higher risk compassionate release, but there is a procedural barrier of 30 days that the warden has to respond to institutional requests before the court can do anything.
It is not known exactly how long it takes Salazar to respond to inmate requests so that they can challenge his denial in court, but he probably takes somewhere between 29 and 30 days. That time frame reduces the likelihood of the court overturning him. One would think that during a global pandemic that Warden Salazar would make an exception or at least process the denials fast enough for the court to make a decision as soon as possible, but obviously Warden Salazar is in no interest in allowing the court to correct his mistakes fast enough for it to matter.
Warden Salazar is not known to have recommended anyone at high risk for release due to Coronavirus and probably never will. BOP staff members are either incompetent, sadistic, or both. The incompetent ones don't know how to process a compassionate release request properly and the sadistic ones deny them to feed their own twisted desires. Either way, the BOP does not care about inmates and Coronavirus will not change that. They can all die and the BOP would just view that as less work for them in the long run.