The first federal inmate to die of coronavirus wrote a letter to the US District Court months before his death pleading for release to support his youngest son, who he had not seen in nearly 13 years.
Patrick Jones, 47, contracted the virus while serving 27 years at a low-security prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, for possession with intent to distribute 425.1 grams of crack cocaine within 1000ft of a junior college.
The penitentiary is dealing with the largest outbreak of the virus among the US's 122 federal facilities, with 22 inmates and four staff testing positive for the virus at Oakdale. Five inmates have since died at Oakdale while in three have died at Elkton, Ohio. Nationally, 138 inmates and 59 staff have tested positive.
On 15 October, Jones wrote to Judge Alan Albright asking for release so he could help the teenage son he hadn't see since he was three years old.
He wrote: "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. 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.
"I am hoping and praying that I be truly given the opportunity to become a father to my son whom will become lost if I don't find him and put him on track where a child his age needs to be," Jones added.
Judge Albright denied the request in February, and Jones died in custody weeks later on 28 March. Jones' request was made under the First Step Act, which gives nonviolent offenders an opportunity to re-enter society.
Lawyer Alison Looman, who represented Jones previously, told NBC he spent the last 12 years contesting his sentence. "Ironically, it seems it is his death that might finally bring his case some attention."
The Bureau of Prisons confirmed Jones – who had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions – complained of a persistent cough before being transferred to a local hospital, where he tested positive for Covid-19. The next day his condition declined and he was put on a ventilator until his death on 28 March.
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