DC jails ordered to reform conditions for inmates during pandemic

The federal court system has ordered D.C.’s Department of Corrections to make changes to jail protocol when it comes to the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the department of corrections must ensure an inmate who reports health issues sees a medical provider within 24 hours.

All corrections facilities must also comply with D.C. and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines, and they must continue its contract for COVID-19 cleaning services, according to the order.

The court did note that the department of corrections is increasing COVID-19 testing and said that must also continue.

In a news release, the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. said the COVID-19 infection rate in the D.C. jail system is almost 14 times higher than the rest of the District.

“In today’s ruling, the Court rightly focused on actual conditions inside the facility, prioritizing the concrete findings of the court’s experts and the sworn evidence from affected prisoners over the government’s vague generalizations,” said Scott Michelman, legal director with ACLU of D.C.

“The court correctly found that the District’s efforts have been too little, too late, and that judicial intervention is necessary to avert grave risks of serious illness and death.”

While a request to release some prisoners because of the pandemic was denied, Kollar-Kotelly wants federal government agencies involved with the D.C. jail system to come up with a plan by July 1 to possibly reduce the population and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Back in March, when the COVID-19 outbreak became more prevalent in the U.S., the department of corrections put out a list of new policies to respond and protect inmates and staff.

The Public Defender Service and the ACLU then filed suit and several corrections officers stepped forward claiming the department of corrections wasn’t doing enough.

WTOP reached out to the District’s department of corrections for comment on the court order but has not heard back.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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