- Patrick Jones, 49, has been identified as the first federal inmate to die from the novel coronavirus.
- Jones, who was 13 years into a 27-year sentence on non-violence drug charges, requested a sentence reduction in October 2019 but was denied in late February.
- On March 9, he signalled that he would appeal the judge’s decision. But just 10 days later he tested positive for COVID-19.
- Jones had “long-term, pre-existing medical conditions” the put him at a higher risk for the coronavirus.
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A 49-year-old man in Louisiana has been identified as the first federal prison inmate to die from the novel coronavirus.
Patrick Jones, who was 13 years into a 27-year sentence on non-violent drug charges, had asked to be released months earlier but was denied on February 26, NBC News reported.
He tested positive for COVID-19 on March 19 after complaining of a persistent cough. He died on March 29.
Authorities told USA Today that Jones had “long-term, pre-existing medical conditions” that put him at a higher risk with COVID-19.
His death comes days after Attorney General William Barr told federal officials to release elderly and medically compromised inmates to home confinement to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Jones had asked for a sentence reduction in October 2019 through the First Step Act, which helps inmates convicted of non-violent drug crimes.
“I feel that my conviction and sentence was also a punishment that my child has had to endure also and there are no words for how remorseful I am,” Jones wrote to US District Judge Alan Albright in a letter seen by NBC News. “Years of ‘I am sorry’ don’t seem to justify the absence of a father or the chance of having purpose in life by raising my child.”
Jones was convicted in 2007 after police found 19 grams of crack and 21 grams of powder cocaine at his and his wife’s Temple, Texas, apartment.
Because he had a rap sheet dating back to his teenage years, the judge sentenced Jones to 27 years in prison.
In court documents filed March 9 and seen by USA Today, Jones indicated that he would appeal the judge’s decision to reject his plea for early release.
Less than a month later, he died.
Jones contracted COVID-19 at Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution in Louisiana.
“He spent the last 12 years contesting a sentence that ultimately killed him,” said Alison Looman, a New York-based lawyer who once represented Jones, told NBC News. “Ironically, it seems it is his death that might finally bring his case some attention.”
With 5 COVID-19-related deaths, the facility has the deadliest federal prison outbreak in the country, Reuters reported.
At least 18 inmates and four staff members have tested positive, and dozens of the 1,000 inmates are showing symptoms.