DC corrections department settles lawsuit over COVID-19 protections

The D.C. Department of Corrections on Monday agreed to implement a package of COVID-19 protections as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by prisoners at the D.C. Jail.

The ACLU of the District of Columbia, one of the parties that filed the suit, said in a statement Tuesday that under the settlement an infectious disease specialist will conduct up to five unannounced visits to the jail to assess factors such as sanitation and hygiene; medical attention for prisoners who have COVID-19 symptoms; masks for staff; social distancing and more.

The suit, which was filed in March 2020 by the ACLU-DC, the Public Defender Service and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, claimed that conditions at the D.C. Jail were such that the Department of Corrections was “deliberately indifferent” to the rights of prisoners.

“It should have never come to a lawsuit to force the D.C. Jail to protect the people in their custody. These measures will protect incarcerated people, officers, and the whole community,” Edward Banks, one of the plaintiffs, said in the statement.

In a separate matter, the U.S. Marshals Service late last year removed about half the prisoners in its custody at the D.C. Jail after an unannounced inspection found appalling living conditions.

In January, Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Tom Faust to return as director of the Department of Corrections.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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