Inmates say they didn’t even provide face masks until the coronavirus had spread around the facility.
Inmates at El Paso County Jail in Colorado have filed a lawsuit against the local sheriff, alleging the facility’s staff risked the inmates’ lives by failing to provide adequate protection against the novel coronavirus.
According to The Denver Post, the lawsuit was filed on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado along with three private companies. The complaint reports how an ongoing coronavirus outbreak in the prison has infected more than three-quarters of the facility’s 1,200 inmates.
The Colorado ACLU claims that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department did not make masks available to the general inmate population until November – long after COVID-19 was already circulated at the facility.
Previously, inmates allegedly tried to protect themselves from the virus by making makeshift masks out of underwear and sheets.
Even these homemade attempts, however, were banned – in some cases punished – by El Paso prison guards.
“Hundreds of people have contracted COVID-19 in prison and suffered unnecessarily because the sheriff intentionally indifferently failed to protect them from an obvious risk of infection and health,” said Dan Williams, one of the lawyers representing the inmates. “In the meantime, those who haven’t been infected with the virus live in constant fear of looking for sick bunkmates, coughing prison staff and generally disregarding security.
Image via Rennett Stowe / Flickr / Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-2.0)
“In the time it took to prepare this case,” Williams added, “people who tested negative multiple times have now tested positive and got sick. Urgent is an understatement.”
Williams and the other attorneys also claim that the El Paso County’s sheriff’s office has failed to meet its obligations to inmates on other fronts. The lawsuit alleges that MPs did not separate healthy inmates from sick inmates. In many cases, inmates who became ill had to recover in their bunks with little or no medical assistance.
The prison staff, according to the Post, had informed concerned inmates that they wanted to “let the corona virus run”.
The Denver Post notes that most inmates of the El Paso County Jail stay behind bars because they couldn’t bail – most have yet to be convicted of a crime.
The lawsuit points to the lack of a coherent masking policy in prison as evidence of willful indifference.
“While myriad deficiencies caused the outbreak and continued to expose plaintiffs and class members, as claimed here, the lack of a mask policy in prison most clearly shows the accused’s deliberate indifference,” the lawsuit said.
The Denver Post notes that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has received more than $ 15 million in federal funding earmarked for coronavirus-related purchases.
However, the sheriff had to spend those funds on facility modernization and other unrelated projects, including expanding the staff locker rooms.
The lawsuit, KKTV said, does not seek monetary damages or any other financial award – it merely calls on El Paso to make fundamental changes to its coronavirus containment strategy, such as: B. to give the inmates cloth masks and to isolate inmates who test positive for the virus.
ACLU files lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Elder over COVID outbreak in prison
El Paso County prison inmates were not given masks prior to one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado
Inmates are suing El Paso County Jail for failing to provide masks for failing to take COVID-19 precautions