Part X: “I just want to bring him home while he is still alive”
Marsha, like Julie in Part VI, is not herself an Insider; she writes this on behalf of her 72 year old husband, Jim.
Marsha 4/30 (Sterling Correctional Facility, Sterling, CO)
Jim, my husband of 52 years, is almost 72 years old and has a compromised cardiovascular system — the #1 risk factor in the elderly for COVID-19 — due to a history of a heart attack resulting in three cardiac stents and the necessity to have nitroglycerin immediately accessible 24/7. He has been rated low to very low risk on every psychological evaluation he has had since this whole ordeal began.
This is not about what got Jim to this point, but a little context is necessary. Jim was not originally incarcerated but received a probated sentence for his conviction. He was placed on the Colorado Sex Offender Intensive Supervision Program (SOISP) which requires, among a plethora of restrictions and requirements, attendance at a weekly, state-recognized sex offender treatment program. After several years of being in the program, in October of 2018, Jim was terminated from the program for refusing to admit to things he did not do. A 20-year career Air Force veteran, holding top secret clearance for much of that time, he was trained in resisting brain-washing techniques. The result of this termination was that he was, by court order, turned over to the DOC for incarceration at Sterling Correctional Facility.
The next two years are a blur of appeals, protests, grievance filings, applications for parole consideration, and one total farce of a parole hearing. Everything was denied.
Through much letter writing, I was finally able to get his name submitted to the Special Needs Parole Committee on April 8. At that time, there was one positive case of a guard with the virus at the Sterling Facility where Jim is. On April 15, Director Williams announced at a video meeting with stakeholders that Sterling was locked down due to two positive cases within the inmate population. On the 19th, it hit the news that there were 138 cases, mostly on the east side where Jim is. Today there are over 250 positive cases, and it continues to grow.
On April 13, Jim’s cellmate left for an appointment and didn’t return. On the 15th when Director Williams announced that there were two cases, I submitted my concern regarding the non-return of Jim’s cellmate. Within the hour I had a phone call from Sterling assuring me that it had nothing to do with COVID-19. Then, on the 26th, he was returned to the unit and into Jim’s cell. After returning from his doctor’s appointment, he had been in isolation for two weeks. He may not have tested positive for COVID-19, but he was now coughing and really sick. Everyone in the unit complained about being exposed to him. He refused to wear his mask while in the cell, and he wasn’t good to cover his mouth when he coughed. On the 28th, I sent an email to the warden. That afternoon they came and checked his vitals, took him for more testing, and removed him from the unit. That evening Jim was put into isolation for two weeks observation. The whole unit was exposed – staff and about 100 inmates.
This morning, April 30th, I received a phone call telling me that Jim’s name had been deferred by the Special Needs Parole Committee. He wasn’t denied, so supposedly he will be looked at again later. She couldn’t tell me why he’d been deferred. He meets every criterion Director Williams gave. I sent him a letter voicing my anger over the incident with Jim’s cellmate and asking for the reason of the deferment. With it being such a life-threatening decision, we deserved answers. I also wanted to know who comprised the committee.
As I am writing this, I just received a call from the offender program manager. Director Williams had forwarded my letter to her and asked her to call me. Jim had passed all the steps of the review, but because he’s listed as a sex offender, he’s considered a risk to the community. We live on a 160-acre ranch with our nearest neighbors ¾ of a mile away, and they know Jim’s situation. Even the judge said he wasn’t a threat to society. This appears to be total discrimination based on the sexual offender label. Sadly, it doesn’t even matter to them that it’s putting someone’s life in jeopardy.
I don’t know when, or how, this journey will end, but I will keep fighting to bring Jim home while he is still alive.
Editor’s addendum: 5/1 one inmate at Sterling died from the virus.