The United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute (USP Terre Haute) is a federal correctional facility where federal executions are conducted–many of which have occurred in the past few months in the presence of a plethora of COVID-19 cases within the facility. As stated by the Bureau of Prisons, USP Terre Haute reported 108 alarming cases of COVID-19; inmates comprised 105 of those cases while staff members comprised the other 5. Despite these numbers, Trump is persistently attempting to exit office with unprecedented numbers of federal executions.
On Jan. 13, the Trump administration executed Lisa Montgomery; on Jan. 14, it executed Cory Johnson, who had tested positive for COVID-19 in December. Today, the administration is scheduled to execute Dustin Higgs, who has also tested positive for the virus. Besides being entirely unsafe for executions to occur with individuals who are infected, it also constitutes cruel and unusual punishment since they have not yet recovered, which was ruled on by a lower court. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court rejected this ruling on Thursday.
For a single execution, any number between 50 and 125 individuals travel to Terre Haute, which includes an execution team of 40 individuals that do not quarantine. Despite this very blatantly violating many COVID-19 safety measures in the midst of a great surge of cases, Trump and the Supreme Court continue forth with their influx of executions. In fact, the Trump administration completely disregards logical claims stating that the federal executions are the culprit behind the prison outbreak.
While the federal executions are inherently barbaric, it comes as no surprise that Trump would disregard the pandemic in order to leave behind a cruel legacy of blood. His attitude towards the virus has remained unchanged throughout the past year. In fact, after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Trump tweeted the following: "Don't be afraid of Covid".
The undermining rhetoric Trump employs when regarding COVID-19 is harmful and contextualizes his fervent support for events that spread the virus–most notably, the federal executions. While Trump will be leaving office next week, the copious amount of infections at the Terre Haute facility will remain.
According to a tweet by AP Legal Affairs Writer Michael Tarm, a "government witness in the mask dispute tells the judge a marshal and an executioner in the chamber with #CoreyJohnson last night briefly took off their masks…" Instances like that reported by Tarm illustrate an undeniable fact: the federal executions continue to raise COVID-19 cases in the facility. It's disturbing and frustrating to see these executions proceed; however, I urge you to reach out to your elected officials and direct them to bills they can vote on to abolish the death penalty.
Biden may be entering office soon, but the COVID-19 cases as a result of a legal death penalty will not be as easy to remove as Trump.