Though Cohen has not yet served his full three-year sentence that was handed down after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations in December 2018, the 53-year-old will be released from New York’s Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Otisville on Thursday, according to the Associated Press, citing a source familiar with the matter.
Cohen’s release from Otisville, included in Forbes’ “10 Cushiest Prisons” of America, comes as a number of correctional facilities across the nation have been releasing inmates in response to the highly contagious COVID-19 novel coronavirus - especially those who may be immunocompromised and are therefore at a higher risk of dying from the virus.
US District Court Judge William Pauley in March ruled against Cohen’s initial request to be released from the facility over pandemic-related concerns. Within the letter provided to the judge, Cohen’s lawyer said the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was "incapable of safeguarding and treating BOP inmates who are obliged to live in close quarters.”
“Ten months into his prison term, it’s time that Cohen accept the consequences of his criminal convictions for serious crimes that had far reaching institutional harms,” Pauley responded in his March 23 ruling, Reuters reported.
The source told the AP that the BOP possesses the authority to release inmates on furlough for up to 30 days and has recently been using that power to transfer inmates who are slated for home confinement down the line.
Cohen is expected to transition from furlough to home confinement, according to the AP.
While the practice of releasing inmates from prisons has been reported across the nation, not all facilities have done so.
For example, the Appeal reported Wednesday that two housing units of the minimum-security Vienna Correctional Center in Illinois were running on generator power for more than three weeks amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Inmates told the outlet that there have been a number of power outages that make for unsafe conditions and also discourage them from venturing to wash their hands in the community washroom - a necessary practice to combat the novel coronavirus.
Though there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the facility, the outlet noted that only 600 of the total 36,000 state prisoners in Illinois have even been tested. Furthermore, inmates have to operate in close quarters, making prisons petri dishes for the virus.
Stories like this and others have been highlighted amid the pandemic by prison reform advocates seeking to expose how the so-called correctional system does little to provide all inmates with the tools to become reformed citizens - or even live day-to-day life behind bars with dignity. Such privileges are said to be extended only to wealthy or well-known inmates such as Cohen.
Former New York State Senate leader Dean Skelos was serving a sentence related to federal corruption charges at FCI Otisville but has been released and ordered to finish his sentence at home after testing positive for COVID-19. He was described as symptom-free in court documents when he was granted his release back in April.