The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for Lompoc’s federal prison, confirmed in an April 24 email to the Sun
that all inmate phone and email access is suspended for the duration of a 14-day lockdown due to the prison's coronavirus outbreak as of April 20.
PHOTO COURTESY OF FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
CHANGES INSIDE The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that inmate phone calls and email access is suspended while the facility remains on a 14-day lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Families are rallying to change that on April 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at FCI Lompoc (3600 Guard Road). Email email@example.com for more information.
The bureau also confirmed that the number of positive COVID-19 cases displayed on its website includes only “open, positive lab-test” cases.
“The total number of open, positive lab-test, COVID-19 cases fluctuates up and down as new cases are added and resolved cases are removed,” Bureau representative Emery Nelson wrote in an email to the Sun
This fluctuation is evident in the discrepancy between numbers reported by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department
and the Bureau of Prisons’ COVID-19 resource page
. The county reported 101 confirmed cases of “people incarcerated at the federal prison in Lompoc” as of April 23. The bureau, however, reported 68 “inmates positive” at the Lompoc penitentiary on the same date.
“If an inmate recovers, or is not in our custody, he is not added to the number of positive cases,” a bureau representative wrote to the Sun. However, the bureau did not respond to the Sun
’s question asking for a definition of what “recovered” means.
Santa Barbara County Public Information Officer Jackie Ruiz told the Sun
that the county Public Health Department’s numbers represent cumulative cases from the beginning of the prison outbreak.
As the Lompoc penitentiary experiences one of the worst outbreaks
across federal prisons in the nation, the facility was placed on a two-week lockdown “in an abundance of caution to maximize social distancing as much as possible,” Nelson wrote in the email to the Sun
“This lockdown is not for punitive reasons; inmate movement is being restricted, including for phone and email access, to ensure that even small group gathering is avoided,” Nelson wrote. “During this time, inmate movement will be restricted to essential activities (such as showers).”
Measures like these are inciting some family members of inmates to action. Alexandra Garcia told the Sun
that her son is currently incarcerated in Lompoc’s federal prison.
“They had been on lockdown, but according to my son, they had actually even augmented the number of minutes that they could use because they weren’t getting visits,” Garcia said. “Then, all of a sudden, on [April] 15 he saw some signs posted, and he told me, ‘Mom, they’re going to cut off all phone contact, all email and computer use, and all use of the commissary.’”
The bureau told the Sun
that it's encouraging inmates to utilize paper mail to keep in contact with family, writing that “inmate mail will continue to be collected and delivered daily.”
Garcia said that, according to her son, the phone he uses to speak with his family is located within the dormitory that he lives in and accessing it doesn’t require movement to another area.
“When we were talking to him and we knew he was fine and he wasn’t infected, we felt OK and trust in what they’re doing,” Garcia said. “But when they cut off all contact, that makes us think something’s up and something terrible is going to happen.”
Garcia and her family are organizing a car rally for April 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the prison, and plan to continue weekend car rallies until their demands are met. ∆