JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown was released from her Central Florida prison more than two years early due to coronavirus concerns, multiple sources confirmed to First Coast News.
This news comes after her lawyer filed then withdrew a motion seeking compassionate release for the 73-year-old. In his motion, attorney William Kent said Brown was at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and that her confinement had reached “a crisis stage.”
“So long as Brown remains in custody, her capacity to protect herself from a serious, or even fatal, infection will be compromised," he wrote. Kent said Brown suffers from a variety of health issues, including hypertension, diabetes, a heart murmur and sleep apnea.
Kent withdrew his motion in early April, saying he would refile the motion “if necessary.”
It's not clear if Brown's departure falls under the prison's compassion release program or if she is being transferred to home confinement. The Bureau of Prisons can transfer an inmate to home confinement administratively, without receiving an application from an inmate. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, BOP has transferred more than 560 inmates to home confinement.
Compassionate release, also known as a reduction in sentence, must be ordered or approved by a judge.
Brown’s release comes as prisons around the country attempt to depopulate facilities in order to slow the spread of the pandemic. Priority has been given to inmates who are ill or elderly, and therefore particularly vulnerable to the virus. Prisons have also focused on inmates who have served most of their sentences.
Brown was scheduled to serve time for fraud convictions until May 2022 at the minimum-security women’s prison camp inside Coleman Federal Correctional Institution in Sumter County.
She was found guilty in 2017 of 18 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and tax crimes stemming from a sham charity, One Door For Education. Brown used her position as a member of Congress to solicit donations for the charity -- purportedly for underprivileged students. In reality, of the more than $833,000 raised for One Door for Education, only $1,200 of it went to scholarships, which benefited just two students. The money was primarily used to finance Brown’s luxury travel, lavish political receptions and high end events, including box seats at NFL games and a Beyoncé concert.
Brown represented the 3rd Congressional District from 1993 to 2012. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2016.
This is a statement from the federal Bureau of Prisons in response to questions about Brown’s release:
While we do not speak to a specific inmate's potential eligibility for compassionate release or suitability for transfer to home confinement, we can share the following general information.
Given the surge in positive cases at select sites and in response to the Attorney General's directives, the BOP has begun immediately reviewing all inmates who have COVID-19 risk factors, as described by the CDC, to determine which inmates are suitable for home confinement. The BOP was originally focused on a priority list of inmates in accordance with the Attorney General's guidance to BOP issued March 26th. However, the Attorney General's memo issued on April 3rd asked the BOP to immediately maximize appropriate transfers to home confinement of all appropriate inmates held at Oakdale, Danbury, Elkton, and other similarly situated facilities. As institutions are working through the original priority list of inmates, at these institutions, it is possible they may be referring additional inmates if appropriate for home confinement.
Inmates do not need to apply to be considered for home confinement. Case management staff are urgently reviewing all inmates to determine which ones meet the criteria established by the Attorney General. The Department of Justice has also increased resources to review and make appropriate determinations as soon as possible. While all inmates are being reviewed for suitability, any inmate who believes he/she is eligible may request to be referred to home confinement and provide a release plan to their Case Manager. The BOP may contact family members to gather needed information when making decisions concerning home confinement placement.
Guidance related to the BOP’s use of home confinement in response to Attorney General Barr’s original memo to the BOP on March 26, 2020 instructing the BOP to prioritize home confinement as an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic may be found here https://www.bop.gov/resources/news/20200405_covid19_home_confinement.jsp We are urgently reviewing all inmates to determine which ones meet the criteria to be suitable for home confinement as established by the Attorney General.
For the number of COVID-19 home confinement transfers since the Attorney General’s March 26, 2020 memo, visit the COVID-19 home confinement section of our resource page on our public website here: https://www.bop.gov/coronavirus/index.jsp. On April 3, the Attorney General exercised emergency authority under the CARES Act to further increase home confinement.
With regard to requests for reductions in sentence (i.e., RIS or compassionate releases), as opposed to inmate transfers to home confinement, the BOP has continued to process RIS requests brought by sick and elderly inmates who qualify under agency criteria, with priority given to terminal requests as directed by the First Step Act and agency policy (see the relevant policy at https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5050_050_EN.pdf).
As you may know, the BOP has no direct authority to grant a reduction in an inmate's sentence as a compassionate release measure; rather, if the BOP’s Director determines an inmate is eligible and appropriate for a reduction in his or her sentence, the BOP asks the prosecuting United States Attorney's Office to file a motion seeking such a reduction on the Director's behalf. Inmates who are found to be ineligible under agency criteria, or who are determined to be inappropriate for agency approval of a reduction in sentence, may also file a motion in their sentencing court themselves under the new authority for such under the First Step Act. At all times, the decision on whether to grant such a motion - whether brought on behalf of the Director of the BOP, or the inmate themselves - lies with the sentencing court.