Prison Employees Indicted

On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that a grand jury had indicted two federal Bureau of Prisons employees on charges stemming from their alleged failure to provide emergency assistance to a prison inmate in Virginia who experienced a severe medical emergency and later died.

The indicted individuals are Lt. Shronda Covington, aged 47, and registered nurse Tonya Farley, aged 52. 

They face accusations of civil rights violation of the inmate in January 2021 by ignoring his medical needs at the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg, Virginia as stated in a news release issued by the department.

Furthermore, Farley is charged separately with writing a false report concerning the incident. 

Covington and Farley, residents of Chesterfield, Virginia, will also face charges of that they made false statements to a federal agent.

According to records from The Associated Press, the individual who died in custody was identified as Wade Walters. He died on January 10, 2021, and the documents listed his cause of death as “cardiac,” although no specific reason was mentioned.

Regarding the charges, each civil rights violation carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, while the breach of writing a false report carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. In addition, each charge of making false statements carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

It’s unclear whether the two employees have legal representation available to provide comments on their behalf.

In a report released last year, the Senate highlighted that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was unsuccessful in identifying over 900 deaths in prisons and local jails in 2021. 

The report revealed that the DOJ’s inadequate data collection and reporting practices had a detrimental impact on transparency and impeded congressional oversight concerning prisoner deaths while in custody.

According to recently published data by researchers from the UCLA Law Behind Bars Data Project, the number of fatalities in state and federal prisons in 2020 witnessed a significant increase of 46% compared to the previous year, resulting in the loss of at least 6,182 lives.