Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis law enforcement officer found guilty of the infamous George Floyd case, fell victim to a serious assault at a medium-security federal prison in Arizona last Friday, according to an inside source. The prison, identified as the Federal Correctional Institution, Tucson, is known to have a history of security issues and insufficient staffing.
The Bureau of Prisons verified one of their inmates had indeed been assaulted at FCI Tucson around 12:30 p.m. local time. In a press statement, they disclosed that their staff had swiftly managed the situation and carried out emergency procedures to keep the assaulted inmate alive. The victim’s identity was not disclosed in the press statement, but he was promptly taken to a nearby hospital for further assessment and treatment.
To ensure safety and control, the Bureau of Prisons notified the FBI, revealing no staff had been injured in the incident. In light of the situation, all visitor privileges at the facility have been put on hiatus. Notably, FCI Tucson is a moderate size prison, harboring around 380 inmates.
Just last year, Chauvin was handed a 21-year sentence for infringing federal civil liberties following his plea of guilt, adding to his existing 22-and-a-half-year sentence for murder and manslaughter from a state court’s ruling. To expedite proceedings, he is serving his respective sentences concurrently at a federal prison.
This incident marks the second publicised attack on a federal inmate in a span of five months. Back in July, Larry Nassar, a discredited sports physician, also fell prey to an assault by a fellow inmate at a federal prison in Florida.
This is not the first instance of chaos at FCI Tucson. Dating back slightly more than a year, another disturbing incident involved an inmate pulling out a gun and trying, but failing, to shoot at a visitor. The inmate was in possession of a weapon he should not have had, but fortunately, his gun jammed and no physical harm was caused.
Chauvin, now 47, was transferred to FCI Tucson from a Minnesota maximum-security facility in August 2022 to serve his concurrent sentences – a 21-year term for violating Floyd’s civil rights and a state sentence of 22 and a half years for second-degree murder. His attorney, Eric Nelson, had strongly urged against placing Chauvin in general custody with other inmates due to concerns regarding his safety.
While Chauvin was in Minnesota, his mostly solitary confinement arrangement was viewed as a necessary measure for his protection, according to documents Nelson presented in court proceedings. Last week, Chauvin faced another legal setback when his appeal for the murder conviction was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chauvin is now resorting to a last-ditch effort to overturn his federal guilty plea by arguing about the lack of causality between his actions and Floyd’s death. George Floyd, a member of the Black community, died on May 25, 2020, when Chauvin, a white man, knelt on his neck for a prolonged nine-and-a-half minutes outside a convenience store where Floyd supposedly attempted to circulate a counterfeit $20 bill.
His death, captured on a passerby’s video, documenting Floyd’s repeated plea, ‘I can’t breathe’, sparked global outrage, leading to widespread protests and fostering a deep conversation on law enforcement practices and racial discrimination across the nation. Three of Chauvin’s former colleagues, who were present at the crime scene, received relatively lenient state and federal sentences for their parts in Floyd’s demise.
The incident of Chauvin’s attack raises concerns once again about the federal Bureau of Prisons, which has been under the spotlight in recent years, post the mysterious suicide of renowned financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2019. This also paints an unflattering picture of the Bureau’s seeming incapacity to safeguard even its high-profile inmates, considering similar troubling incidents, like Nassar’s assault and the notorious ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski’s alleged suicide at a federal medical centre back in June.
The Associated Press’s ongoing investigation has unearthed multiple unsettling shortcomings within the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department’s largest law enforcement agency. This organization, entrusted with around 158,000 inmates, employs over 30,000 people and operates on an annual budget close to $8 billion.
Their investigation has brought to light numerous reports detailing sexual abuse, illegal activities by the staff, multiple escapes, frequent violent encounters, untimely deaths and severe staffing issues. These deficiencies have led to delayed responses to urgent situations, such as the assault of inmates and suicide attempts.
Hoping to bring about a much-needed transformation, the agency appointed Colette Peters as the Bureau of Prisons Director last year. Peters, who pledged to overhaul outdated hiring practices and bring about transparency, emphasised that the agency’s purpose is ‘to make good neighbors, not good inmates.’ However, her tenure so far has also sparked frustration among lawmakers, who were expecting a more candid and open approach from her.