Kwame Kilpatrick denied early release from prison hit hard by COVID-19 outbreak

Detroit's former 'hip-hop' mayor has requested a commutation of his sentence as well from President Trump.

(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Disgraced Detriot, Michigan mayor Kwame Kilpatrick hoped to get a compassionate release from jail given the COVID-19 virus cutting a swath through the prison system. But, at least for the moment, Kilpatrick will remain in federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana.

READ MORE: ‘Just Mercy’ campaign launches COVID-19 fund to help the incarcerated

Supporters from the Ebony Foundation, an offshoot of Ebony magazine that advocates on behalf of prison reform, first announced that Kilpatrick would be released last week.

Kwame Kilpatrick

DETROIT – OCTOBER 28: Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick appears in Wayne County Circuit Court for his sentencing October 28, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan. Kilpatrick will spend 4 months in jail as part of a plea deal he accepted back in September in which he plead guilty to two felonies and no contest to a felony assault charge. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

But Sabrina Taylor of the Ebony Foundation told the Detriot Free Press this week that things had changed.

“There was a case manager on April 17 who went on notice and recommended one path and yesterday that path was reversed by somebody who stepped in over the weekend,” Taylor said.

The Department of Justice statement read:

On Tuesday, May 26, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reviewed and denied inmate Kwame Kilpatrick for home confinement. Mr. Kilpatrick remains incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution-I in Oakdale, Louisiana.”

In a letter dated April 17, the prison’s warden told Kilpatrick,49, who reportedly suffers from asthma and pre-diabetes,  that he was among the prisoners considered at risk for the virus and outlined remedies including wearing a mask, social distancing and sanitizing his cell, as well as reporting any virus symptoms to prison authorities. According to a report, that warden, Rod Myers, has since been removed.

(Credit: The Freedom and Justice Trust)


The low-security prison, approximately 200 miles from New Orleans houses almost a thousand male inmates.

At the beginning of May, multiple sources reported that eight Oakdale inmates had died of the coronavirus of over 40 COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff. It is one of the federal prisons that Attorney General William Barr suggested allow its qualifying prisoners to finish their sentences from home.

“We are experiencing significant levels of infection at several of our facilities, including the Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale (Louisiana), Danbury (Connecticut) and Elkton (Ohio),” Barr said. “We have to move with dispatch in using home confinement when appropriate to move vulnerable inmates out these institutions.”

READ MORE: Black Mafia Family leader ‘Big Meech’ early release halted

Kilpatrick already has a request for commutation of his sentence into President Trump, made on his behalf in February by friends, family, and some prominent supporters. That release is still pending. In 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 federal felony counts including mail and wire fraud, and was sentenced to 28 years.

By contrast, Detroit’s Black Mafia Family leader Terry ‘Southwest T’ Flenory, 50, was granted a compassionate release earlier this month from a Kentucky prison to home confinement. He was sentenced to 30 years in 2008 for drug trafficking offenses related to running the multi-state organization. Flenory, whose sentence was already cut by six years, is expected to remain in home confinement until 2026.

His brother Demetrius ‘Big Meech’ Flenory 51, was denied compassionate release and remains imprisoned in Oregon.


Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!