Attention Inmate #34222034 at the Federal Prison Camp Pensacola: We at Justice and Beyond are demanding your immediate release!
Dr. Jones, 50, who is Black, is serving a three-year sentence for health care fraud. He is a board-certified cardiologist, Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and award-winner for America’s Top Cardiologist for 2010 and 2016. He is a New Orleans native who met his wife of 14 years here.
Dr. Jones, you are hardly a number to us. You are our beloved friend and partner as a Pillar of our organizing coalition, Justice and Beyond (J&B).
Pat Bryant, co-founder of J&B, describes Michael Jones, as “an unusual person with a keen sense of humanity. Beyond the requirements of his Hippocratic Oath he works on the community’s problems to make humanity better. There is a fire burning inside of him. He has a let’s-get-it-done-now personality.”
Dr. Jones awards a $5,000 scholarship annually to a deserving student, who will attend an accredited college in Louisiana, will remain in Louisiana after graduation, and has shown a commitment to community service.
Sylvia McKenzie, co-moderator of J&B, says of Dr. Jones, “An awesome guy. He is lovable and willing to school us and teach us about the medical system, the miseducation and misinformation about drugs, about billing, and about the best treatment. He is very knowledgeable. Whatever we can do to get him out, we will do it.”
Pastor Gregory Manning, also co-moderator of J&B, stresses that Dr. Jones has been an active part of the Coalition Against Death Ally and the environmental fight in the River Parishes. “He has been an advocate for low-income people to have health care. He is educating people on how to live healthier lives.”
On March 29 Dr. Jones wrote to U.S. Attorney General William Barr to ask for home confinement on the grounds that he meets all six of Mr. Barr’s requirements for conditional release during the pandemic. He wrote, “Our exposure is likely since nearly 250 of the inmates here go outside of the camp to work details in high infection risk areas every day. These inmates work among international travelers at military bases, and at high infection risk sites like laundries that handle hospital and hotel linens. These inmates travel to their work sites 20 plus men per bus for over an hour.”
Dr. Jones goes on to say, “The inmates in this camp cannot by virtue of our living and eating arrangements practice social distancing and the staff constantly violate the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control.”
On April 7 Dr. Jones suffered a heart attack in his prison cell.
On April 16 — the day when CNN reported that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, would be released early from his three-year prison term — the Bureau of Prisons online tracking system found 473 inmates and 279 staff members who have tested positive for the virus and 18 inmates who have died. The system reported 1,198 federal inmates have been placed on home confinement. There are more than 143,000 prisoners at federal facilities across the country.
Reverend Richard Bell, Board member of A Community Voice and a Pillar of J&B, asked, “What is the difference between Michael Cohen’s Corona related release from prison and Dr. Michael Jones? Cohen is white and super-privileged, with no pre-existing conditions. Dr. Jones is an African American, has serious hypertension, and just suffered a heart attack. Dr. Jones has more of a right than Michael Cohen to be released from prison under all circumstances. Will the scales of justice tilt in the favor of someone who actually worked for the community, as it has for someone who has worked against it? The answer will also be written in black and white.”
In his letter to Mr. Barr, Dr. Jones wrote, “If I am allowed early release, I will volunteer my services to assist in my community, or any place the government would choose to deploy me to assist in our country’s recovery from the COVID 19 Pandemic.”
Dr. Jones’ wife, who is working three days a week is trying her best to provide a peaceful home for their three children, sheltering them as best she can from the unfolding family trauma. She is focused on their routines, their well-being, their counseling, and their education. Dr. Jones told Mr. Barr, “My 3 children are stressed and frightened because they are separated from me and worse now, they have to deal with the Coronavirus Pandemic without my guidance. My parents are senior citizens and both have chronic medical conditions. They need my assistance and care also. I ask that you consider my nonviolent status, my family’s best interest, and the help that I can provide the country as a Cardiologist during this pandemic, and grant me early release with home confinement.” His wife, a paragon of courage and fortitude, says that slowly but surely things are working out.
Justice and Beyond has sent a letter to Senator Cassidy asking that he be released. Otherwise, Dr. Jones could die in prison. You can add your name to the letteror contact Senator Cassidy directly at 3421 N. Causeway Blvd. Metairie, 70002.
Even in prison at this terrifying time, Dr. Jones is thinking more of others than himself. Thank you for your inspiration and example, Dr. Jones. And we love you.
Orissa Arend is a Pillar of Justice and Beyond.
The Opinion section is a community forum. Views expressed are not necessarily those of The Lens or its staff. To propose an idea for a column, contact Engagement Editor Tom Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.