Federal Inmate COVID-19 Releases ‘Cloaked in Secrecy’

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Like Paul Manafort, federal prisoner Mike Yepremian has a long list of health problems that place him at high risk of dying of COVID-19. He has diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory failure, and sepsis, some of the same ailments that afflict President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman. Like Manafort, 71, Yepremian, 63, was hospitalized a few months ago. In February, pneumonia got so bad he was put into a medically induced coma for nine days while intubated. Both are first-time prisoners serving time for a white-collar crime. Manafort defrauded the government out of millions of dollars he amassed through illicit lobbying. Yepremian defrauded Medicare by running fake clinics in Texas. Manafort was sentenced to 7½ years, Yepremian is serving 10.

Manafort, once a well-known Republican operative, was released early under Attorney General William Barr’s order to move vulnerable prisoners to home confinement because of the pandemic. Yepremian, an unknown, remains incarcerated. Advocates say there are many more like Yepremian – old and nonviolent prisoners who aren’t a threat to public safety who remain behind bars as the virus infects hundreds of inmates and staff. Critics say the way in which the Federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented Barr’s directive has been inconsistent, confusing and slow. The agency has broad discretion in determining who can spend the rest of their sentence at home; how this is decided is cloaked in secrecy. “This is a classic problem with the BOP, just a lack of transparency,” said Kevin Ring of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. The Bureau of Prisons declined to say if Yepremian qualifies for home confinement, saying it does not speak about a specific inmate. More than 18,000 federal prisoners are serving sentences of less than three years. So far, the prison bureau has moved only 3,889 inmates to home confinement.

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