Settlement Reached in Federal Lawsuit Seeking to Protect Incarcerated People from COVID-19
HARTFORD – The parties in McPherson v Lamont today reached an agreement, pending approval from a federal judge, to resolve a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Connecticut and the law firm Dechert LLP on behalf of people incarcerated in Connecticut Department of Correction prisons and jails seeking changes to protect people who are incarcerated from COVID-19. The agreement requires the Department of Correction to follow procedures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all people who are incarcerated in DOC prisons and jails pre-trial and post-sentence.
The agreement requires the DOC to prioritize elderly and medically vulnerable people for release programs, provide certain hygiene and sanitation practices, and institute to other human rights requirements. Under the agreement, the DOC is required to: identify people age 65 and above and people at a medical risk scale of 4 or 5 and fast track those people for consideration for release; stop imposing punitive measures such as loss of housing status, program access, work assignments, or phone privileges because someone has tested positive or is presumed positive; provide regular access to showers with running water, including for people who have tested positive or are presumed positive; institute and follow a system-wide cleaning schedule; distribute antiseptic cleaning supplies for people to be able to clean their areas if they wish to; provide people with disinfectant to wipe down phones between uses; test all people who are incarcerated, dependent on individualized informed consent; ensure people have least at two free bars of soap at all times; ensure people have at least two clean and functional masks at all times; and follow additional requirements. Under the agreement, a five-member panel of experts will be responsible for reviewing the DOC’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and making continual recommendations to the parties accordingly.
“People who are incarcerated are people, with human rights, dignity, and healthcare needs. It is critical for the State of Connecticut to protect people who are incarcerated from COVID-19, and it is our hope these new measures will protect people from COVID-19 while also treating them with dignity. It will require our constant vigilance to ensure the DOC keeps the promises it has made in this agreement,” said Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut’s legal director and an attorney on the case.
“Because this agreement falls short of our goal of widespread releases, the ACLU of Connecticut remains committed to using every remaining advocacy tool at our disposal to push for people who are incarcerated to be safely, thoughtfully released from prisons and jails,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “The legislature must pass a pandemic response plan for Connecticut prisons and jails that includes much broader releases than those mandated in this agreement. The State of Connecticut must also take every step to prevent new people from being churned into prisons and jails once the courts reopen. This pandemic has laid bare that Connecticut prisons and jails, as incarcerated people and their loved ones have been saying for decades, are unhealthy, unsafe places for anyone to be. The fact that it took two lawsuits to get the DOC and Governor Lamont to agree to even basic COVID-19 protections underscores the need for Connecticut to decarcerate to protect human rights, dignity, and public health. As was the case before COVID-19 and as remains the case now, Connecticut can and should reduce the number of people who are incarcerated to protect public health.”
If accepted by the court, the agreement would resolve two lawsuits, McPherson v Lamont and CCDLA v Lamont. Under the agreement, the federal court will conduct a fairness hearing, in which the court must provide the opportunity for all members of the class – all people who are incarcerated in Connecticut – the chance to state their positions regarding the agreement. If accepted by the court, the agreement would run until December 31, 2020.
A copy of the agreement is available online: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/2020-06-06_executed_settlemen…
For information regarding the lawsuit: https://www.acluct.org/en/cases/mcpherson-et-al-v-lamont-et-al
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