Saferia Johnson, a 36-year-old inmate at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County, Florida, died on Monday around 10:30 a.m. after battling the coronavirus.
Her tragic death is compounded by the fact that her motion for a compassionate release was denied by the prison over a month before she died. In 2018, Johnson was sentenced to 46 months for conspiracy to embezzle public money and aggravated identity theft after pleading guilty, a non-violent offense.
“I am sad, heartbroken, in disbelief,” said her mother Tressa Clements after losing her only child in an interview with the Miami Herald. “This never should have happened.”
Tressa will now be the sole caretaker of Saferia’s two children, Kyrei, 7, and Josiah, 4.
“Now I have to bury my daughter and figure out how to raise these kids,” she said. “These kids will never see their mother again for no reason.
“We told them that God wanted her as an angel with him,” she said. “But she will always be in their lives and be their guardian angel.
Saferia is the first person to die from the prison–at the time of report 183 inmates and 21 staffers tested positive for COVID-19. Following weeks of controversy regarding inmates health and safety due to a Legionnaires’ Disease and allegations of sexual abuse.
Her petition for compassionate release was probably due to the fact that she suffered from asthma and diabetes, determiners that could change the course of the infection if an autoimmune person like Saferia contracted the virus.
Sunday was the last time she saw Saferia alive after she was taken to the hospital by prison staff on July 19. Saferia had been experiencing shortness of breath on July 15 and tested positive for the virus on the day she was admitted.
Tressa says she was never fully given all of the information regarding her daughter’s dire condition. A news release by the Bureau of Prisons was the first time Tressa said she was able to confirm that her daughter died of COVID-19.
“They’ve told me nothing,” she said. “This has been horrible.”
Tressa and her sister traveled to see Saferia in her final days, but were given the run around until they were highly encouraged to see her on Sunday, the day before she died. Even at the hospital, Tresa said she was not made aware of how dire the situation was. Tressa said she asked a nurse to hand her daughter her cell phone so that she could talk to her without contaminating the space.
“I told her to fight as hard as she could,” she said. “She couldn’t talk, but tears were coming from her eyes. She knew I was there.”
“She was everyone’s baby,” Tressa continued. “She was a sweet girl. She didn’t deserve to die there.”