A mother of two died from COVID-19 while she was in prison despite pleading to be released on home confinement due to her health condition. According to the Miami Herald, Saferia Johnson was imprisoned at the women’s work camp at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County, Florida.
The 36-year-old was one of 182 people to test positive for COVID-19 in the facility. But she is the first to die from the coronavirus at Coleman’s low-security work camp.
“She was everyone’s baby,” Johnson's mother, Tressa Clements, told the Herald. “She was a sweet girl. She didn’t deserve to die there.”
In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said Johnson was evaluated by health officials at the facility after she experienced shortness of breath on July 15. She tested positive for COVID-19 a few days later and got transported to a hospital, where her condition worsened. The mother of two was determined to have long-term, preexisting medical conditions, which contribute to COVID-19 complications. She died on August 3.
“I am sad, heartbroken, in disbelief,” Clements said. “This never should have happened.”
Johnson had been serving time at Coleman since October after she was accused of nonviolent crimes.
"Ms. Johnson was a 36-year-old female who was sentenced in the Middle District of Georgia to a 46-month sentence for Conspiracy to Steal and Embezzle Public Money and Aggravated Identity Theft," the BOP stated.
The Thomasville, Georgia native had been struggling with asthma since her childhood and was relying on breathing treatments. She was also diagnosed with diabetes. Due to her health conditions, Johnson asked for home custody. The request was rejected a month before she tested positive for the coronavirus.
Clements said she got a call from a chaplain on July 21, saying that Johnson was struggling with her breathing. But the grieving mother said nobody disclosed any information about COVID-19 and that she assumed her daughter was getting better.
Clements' sister then received a call from prison officials who told the family to visit Johnson in the hospital. However, the trip had to be delayed a few more days because the visit wasn't cleared. When Clements and her sister made the 170-mile trip from Thomasville to Coleman, they were able to talk to their loved one through a phone behind a window.
“I told her to fight as hard as she could,” the distraught mother said. “She couldn’t talk, but tears were coming from her eyes. She knew I was there.”
The next morning the family received a call confirming Johnson's death.
“Now I have to bury my daughter and figure out how to raise these kids,” Clements said. “These kids will never see their mother again for no reason.”
The boys are 7-year-old Kyrei and 4-year-old Josiah.
“We told them that God wanted her as an angel with him,” Clements said. “But she will always be in their lives and be their guardian angel.”
According to the Herald, there are 2,017 incarcerated people and 542 staff members with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system. However, the number of recovered cases has been increasing at a rapid rate in the past two weeks. One of the highest totals of recoveries was seen on August 4 when 8,663 incarcerated people and 720 staff members were confirmed to be healthy. The total number of incarcerated individuals who have died from the coronavirus in federal prison is 108.
Coleman’s low-security work camp has also been hampered by a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak and allegations of sexual abuse. According to MyNews13, residents are pressuring the facility to release more incarcerated women.
This is Saferia Johnson & her 2 sons. Johnson died from Covid-19 yesterday at FCC Coleman. A non-violent offender w/pre-existing conditions, she met federal home confinement criteria but died in prison. Cases there ⬆️ Many wonder why more inmates aren’t being released. @MyNews13
— Stephanie Coueignoux (@StephanieCNews) August 4, 2020
“I should not be telling my great-nephews that their momma is gone, and she’s not coming back,” Carol Holmes, Johnson’s aunt, told Bay News 9. “You do a crime. You need to do your time. But it doesn’t have to be your life! It was her life. She’s gone.”