Skip to content

Black prisoner denied early release becomes 1st inmate to die of coronavirus

(Photo credit: / Joseph Sohm)

Patrick Jones became the first federal prisoner to die from the coronavirus when he succumbed to the disease on March 28. Now his family has come forward and suggested that his life could have been saved had he been given an early release from prison.

Jones, 49, was serving 27 years for selling cocaine in Temple, Texas after being sentenced in 2007. His lawyers were attempting to get him released from prison under the First Step Act, a criminal reform program for non-violent offenders, according to The Marshall Project. 

However, he was denied an early release before the coronavirus had become a pandemic three months ago.

Jones wrote to the court. “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,” he wrote, “I have not seen him since he was 3 years old.”

On March 19, Jones complained of a cough and told prison officials that he had “long-term, pre-existing medical conditions which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease.” Jones was taken to a local hospital, where he tested positive and was placed on a ventilator before he eventually died.