An inmate at Colorado’s ADX Florence prison has filed a proposed class action against the facility’s warden and the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons over what he claims is the parties’ failure to implement a systemic COVID-19 testing protocol for prisoners and staff.
The 31-page suit alleges that although prisons are “a known hotbed for infections and viral pandemics,” neither Florence’s warden nor the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons has taken measures to protect inmates and staff from the spread of coronavirus. According to the lawsuit, the defendants “are knowingly risking the lives of every prisoner” in the federal system.
After outlining how quickly the novel coronavirus spread globally and the World Health Organization’s declaration of a worldwide health emergency, the case states that it was not long before employees with both New York and Washington’s departments of corrections tested positive for COVID-19. While social distancing is essentially the only measure that can be taken to prevent the spread of the disease, the plaintiff stresses in the lawsuit that the measure is not available for prisoners, who are left “packed in close quarters, housed with other prisoners, with multiple cells in a single pod, sharing meals multiple times per day.”
“Without the ability to isolate and engage in social distancing, isolation of prisoners who have COVID-19 from this population prior to passing the infection is critical to controlling the spread of this illness,” the complaint says.
Despite the spread of coronavirus into all 50 states, Florence prisoners continue to eat together and serve each other food with no testing or monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, the lawsuit says. As the plaintiff describes it, Florence inmates are “sitting ducks” at “the mercy of [the] Defendants’ inaction.” To date, the lawsuit says, there is no screening or testing of prisoners in federal custody for COVID-19. Likewise, neither Florence nor the Federal Bureau of Prisons has made any effort to screen or test corrections officers, staff or others who work within similar facilities, the case alleges.