Five inmates have filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), arguing that they’re not doing their part in stopping their spread of coronavirus.
The inmates said that the Department of Corrections should be required to tell the court what safety measures it’s taking in response to the pandemic.
“Due to the conditions under which inmates are held at prisons in Washington State, it is anticipated that an outbreak of COVID-19 will soon be seen, or may currently be underway, at one or more Washington State prisons,” the lawsuit says. “Cleaning at jails statewide has been woefully inadequate to kill virions that may be left on surfaces … .”
“There is no evidence whatsoever that the Defendants have taken any action to clean jails, separate prisoners, or otherwise ensure that prisoners” aren’t exposed to the virus. … Some prison guards have no bleach with which to clean surfaces, and instead are instructed to do so with soap and water,” the suit adds.
The inmates argue that the Department of Corrections should be required to give reasons why certain inmates who are in for nonviolent offenses can’t be released to electronic home monitoring. They specifically mention those over 60, those with certain medical conditions and those with less than a year of actual confinement.
“In the event the crisis worsens, prison staff has expressed a concern that the system will be overwhelmed and there will not be enough staff to adequately staff all of the prisons in the state,” the lawsuit says.
According to the inmates, the agency’s lack of action is illegal and inhumane and that it violates the state constitution.
“Therefore, Plaintiffs ask the Court to order Defendants to, at a minimum, come before the Court to demonstrate that they are taking adequate safety measures …, ” the lawsuit says. “Those measures should include, but need not be limited to, cleaning, prevention, and release of low-level detainees and those at most risk for contracting the virus on Electric Home Monitoring (EHM).”
The Department of Corrections released the following statement:
“The health and safety of our staff, those in our care, and the community is our top priority. … To date, the Department of Corrections has three confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported by its employees, one reported by a contractor at the Peninsula Work Release and no confirmed cases among the incarcerated, those on supervision or those in work release.”