I'm sure readers are aware of the murder of 89-year-old convict Whitey Bulger at a Federal high-security penitentiary in West Virginia. That was bad enough, and his death has highlighted some serious errors in the way the prison handled his admission. (You'll recall that I was a chaplain at a Federal high-security penitentiary, and know how these things should be done. From what I've read, they were not handled correctly at all.)
Now comes new information that - if true - makes the Bureau of Prisons look even more guilty of serious errors in handling the late Mr. Bulger.
Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger’s medical classification was suddenly and inexplicably changed to suggest his health had improved, leading to his transfer to the West Virginia prison where he was murdered last week, US Bureau of Prisons records show.
. . .
A Bureau of Prisons official who is familiar with Bulger’s treatment said the Florida prison considered Bulger a nuisance and wanted to transfer him.
“They lowered his care level to get rid of him,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case.
That official said he did not believe the intent was to get Bulger killed. But he acknowledged that sending Bulger to Hazelton and immediately placing him in the general population was negligent and amounted to “a death penalty.”
Sandy Parr, who works at a federal medical facility and is president of a union representing federal prison workers, said the Bureau of Prisons regularly changes medical classifications “even though they shouldn’t” to move troublesome inmates.
Prison records reviewed by the Globe show that prison authorities deemed Bulger’s medical treatment was complete. But, Parr said, “no one with his [medical] history would ever have medical care completed.”
A Bureau of Prisons spokesman on Tuesday declined to answer questions about why Bulger’s medical classification was changed, saying, “We are not releasing any information due to the ongoing investigation.”
But beyond Bulger’s classification being changed to allow his transfer to Hazelton, questions remain about why officials at Hazelton allowed Bulger to be placed in the prison’s general population, which included several organized crime figures from Massachusetts who would have been familiar with Bulger and might pose a danger to him.
As the Globe reported last week, two of those figures, Fotios “Freddy” Geas, a Mafia hit man from West Springfield serving life for two gangland murders, and Paul J. DeCologero, who was part of a Mafia-aligned group who murdered and dismembered a 19-year-old Medford woman, are now suspects in Bulger’s murder.
. . .
Several law enforcement officials say they can’t understand why Bulger wasn’t initially placed in isolation at Hazelton until officials there could determine whether he would be safe in general population. Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., said placing Bulger in the general population in Hazelton amounted to a “death penalty.”
There's more at the link.
This is really serious stuff. Two other inmates were murdered at USP Hazelton in separate incidents earlier this year, and ongoing violence threatens the safety of both staff and inmates there. A union official has spoken out about it publicly, and from my own experience of such events, I'm more than willing to believe him. Even worse, several inmates there had known Mafia connections, and could have been expected (and predicted) to act against Bulger if he ended up there. Who dropped the ball? Who failed to make the connection? Even worse, did someone deliberately arrange to have Mr. Bulger admitted to general population, in the expectation that something like this would happen to him? That sounds way far-fetched . . . but we're dealing with the worst of the worst in criminal society here. A quick check of court records across the country will reveal all too many cases where bribes or other pressures have influenced corrections staff illegally. (I wrote about some of them in my book.)
I figure the staff at USP Hazelton will be walking very, very carefully right now, and looking over their shoulders. That institution is under a law enforcement microscope. It's going to be very uncomfortable for all those working there, and probably career-ending for some of them - if not worse. I'm also pretty sure that lawsuits will follow. Prison authorities are legally responsible for the inmates incarcerated there - in loco parentis, to use the legal term. They clearly failed in those responsibilities in the Bulger case, and possibly the other murders there this year too. I'm sure lawyers already have dollar signs in their eyes over that.