Judge rules in favor of DC inmates in coronavirus risk lawsuit

A judge has ruled in favor of some D.C. inmates who filed a lawsuit seeking early release and increased cleaning of facilities in light of an increase of coronavirus cases.

Inmates at the Central Detention Facility and Correctional Treatment Facility in D.C. will not be released but will be seeing changes in cleaning and safety precautions after a judge ruled in their favor in an opinion delivered Sunday.

The increasing number of virus cases led a judge to order two independent inspectors to make an unannounced visit at the Central Detention Facility and Correctional Treatment Facility.

After the inspectors filed their report, United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in her opinion that social distancing has not adequately been addressed and that the inmates cannot take the same precautions as those who are not detained.

The opinion reads, “the infection rate in DOC facilities was over seven times the infection rate of the District of Columbia at large.”

When it comes to cleaning supplies, the opinion states that, “inmates used ‘tattered and soiled’ rags that they made by tearing facility issued towels or T-shirts,” and “[it] was evident that knowledge regarding the appropriate use of the different cleaning and sanitizing agents was generally at a very low level.”

The judge ordered that the department of corrections take immediate steps to ensure social distancing is maintained, cases are tracked and that visitor and staff temperatures are taken properly, as the report stated that the thermometer used to check temperatures was not reading correctly.

The report said that inmates are likely deterred from reporting coronavirus symptoms due to the isolation that would result.

Through interviews, the inspectors reported that inmates in isolation due to coronavirus symptoms said that if they had to do it over again, they would not report their symptoms.

The judge said in her opinion that those inmates that are isolated with coronavirus symptoms must have reliable access to legal calls, personal calls, daily showers and clean clothing and linens.


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Deon Crowell, who died of complications from COVID-19 on April 13, before he could stand trial for a 2017 murder, was the first D.C. Jail inmate to die from the novel coronavirus since it was discovered in the facility in March.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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