The American Civil Liberties Union on Saturday filed a pair of class-action lawsuits on behalf of federal prisoners at Lompoc and Terminal Island, claiming officials mishandled coronavirus outbreaks at the facilities that have infected a combined total of 1,775 inmates, killing 10.
“While the rest of California took extraordinary measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Bureau of Prisons failed to take preventive measures as basic as isolating sick prisoners, allowing social distancing, or providing enough soap,” Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement. “Their deliberate indifference to the risk of disease violates the Constitution, and puts both those in prison and the surrounding community at risk.”
The lawsuits, which name the prisons’ wardens, as well as Michael Carvajal, director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, claim that officials at both facilities allowed the virus to spread by failing to provide clean environments, basic sanitary supplies and personal protective equipment to prisoners and staff.
Overcrowding makes it impossible for prisoners to maintain social distancing or take other precautions, but officials have refused to consider the majority of inmates for release into home confinement despite directives that they do so, according to the lawsuits. The refusal amounts to cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the 8th Amendment, the suits claim.
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