Saturday, September 19, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on July 29th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 22

CANARY: Consider this


Lompoc has some roiling drama in its Federal Correctional Complex (FCC). It’s under the microscope for how its leadership has been handling, or apparently not handling, the efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the prison facilities. 


In a nutshell: The Lompoc FCC should have released more of its eligible incarcerated individuals to home confinement to avoid inmates contracting and spreading the coronavirus. So says an ongoing class-action lawsuit. 

The Lompoc FCC had 509 inmates who were potentially eligible for transfer to home confinement between April 4 and May 15, according to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Central Office, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). (None of this information is coming out in a direct manner, it seems.)

So more than 500 inmates could have been released to home confinement. How many were actually sent home? 


Not 508. Not 80. Just eight. 

The BOP sent the names of those eligible inmates to Lompoc FCC leadership, and in the meantime, there was a massive outbreak at the prison facilities—as of May 13, more than 900 Lompoc inmates tested positive for COVID-19. What gives?    

Well, right now, multiple layers of lawyers—a firm called Bird Marella P.C., the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Prison Law Office—are taking the Lompoc FCC to court saying it was in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. 

Yes, these are unusual times, but no one should be cruel on top of everything we’re all facing. 

And then, while this lawsuit was having its day in court, the federal Office of Inspector General released the aforementioned report that said the Lompoc prison “handled things poorly, and more poorly in comparison to other prisons,” said Nauen Rim, a lead attorney with Bird Marella. 

On July 14, the class-action lawsuit got a partial victory when the court ordered the Lompoc FCC to do what it should have done in the first place: consider home confinement for its inmates who are over 50 years old or who have underlying health conditions. 

Wait, I understand this is a victory—the court is smacking the Lompoc FCC into compliance. 

But is it? The language seems too soft: consider home confinement. 

It seems like the prison leadership may have considered it all along but didn’t act on it. We need numbers, people, numbers bigger than the 45 inmates sent home for confinement as of July 10. 

I’ve heard my mama-bird friends put the smack down on their fledglings: Clean up your nest by 5 o’clock or you don’t get the same levels of freedom you’ve been given.

The prison needs to hear an ultimatum or something enforceable: Send home this percent by that date or you’ll be out of compliance/you’ll be fined/you’ll be fired. 

Otherwise the Lompoc FCC could be asked again: Hey, did you consider sending some of your at-risk individuals home? 

Yeah. We considered it. We considered it not worth doing. 

The canary is unusual but never cruel. Send comments to

Weekly Poll
Should the county Public Health Department help elementary schools apply for the state’s waiver program?

Yes, that’s what the department is there for.
Schools shouldn’t open at all right now, nevermind with the county’s help.
If the state thinks schools are ready, what’s the problem?
Schools should have to fend for themselves; it shows whether they’re ready to handle reopening.

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