When James Giannetta first called his brother Russ in late June to tell him that the coronavirus was beginning to spread in his Texas federal prison, Russ could hear the fear in his voice. “This place is exploding,” James warned. 

Russ soon got another call: James, a 65-year-old inmate with diabetes and HIV, had tested positive for the virus himself. Within days, he was rushed to a hospital as his oxygen levels plummeted. A few weeks later, after his condition deteriorated and he was placed on a ventilator, he was dead. 

As coronavirus has spread rapidly through prisons and jails around the country in recent months, the Texas lockup where Giannetta spent his last days has emerged as the hardest-hit federal prison in the United States.

More than 1,300 of the roughly 1,750 prisoners at FCI Seagoville prison and camp have tested positive for the virus, according to data from the federal Bureau of Prisons — a stunning three out of every four inmates.

So far, three inmates at the prison, including Giannetta, have died from Covid-19. 

Five Seagoville inmates told CNN in phone interviews from behind bars that they feared for their lives as the virus rushed through the Dallas-area prison, and that the crowded conditions made it all but impossible for them to stay socially distanced.

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