Skip to main content
Press Release

Bureau of Prisons Employee Charged with Violating the Civil Rights of an Inmate Resulting in Death

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officer with violating the civil rights of an inmate by showing deliberate indifference to the inmate’s serious medical needs, resulting in his death. 

The superseding indictment alleges that on January 10, 2021, BOP Senior Officer Specialist Yolanda Blackwell, 45, of Chester, was on duty and working in her official capacity at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Petersburg. The superseding indictment charges that Blackwell willfully failed to ensure that the inmate, a 47-year-old man identified as W.W., was provided with necessary medical care, even though she knew that W.W. had serious medical needs. W.W. died in federal custody that day.

Two other BOP officials, Lieutenant Shronda Covington and registered nurse Tonya Farley, were previously charged with civil rights and other offenses in connection with the inmate’s death in custody. Another BOP official, Lieutenant Michael Anderson, previously pleaded guilty for his role in the inmate’s death.

If convicted, Blackwell faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; and Michael E. Horwitz, Inspector General of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, made the announcement.

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General investigated the case. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas A. Garnett and Special Litigation Counsel Kathryn E. Gilbert and Trial Attorney Matthew Tannenbaum of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 23-cr-68.

An indictment is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Updated August 3, 2023

Civil Rights