The warden of New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) faces a proposed class action petition wherein five individuals seeking a writ of habeas corpus allege the jail has rolled out a “delayed and patently inadequate response” to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the 29-page lawsuit, 33 MCC staff members have tested positive for coronavirus, and the pandemic has spread through the inmate population. The plaintiffs allege the defendant and MCC’s response to the outbreak as it ripples through the facility has been “a mixture of ineptitude and indifference” that threatens the health of inmates and staff.
The case says that MCC has conducted only seven coronavirus tests, representing one percent of the inmate population. Five of those seven tests came back positive, the lawsuit states, indicating strongly that the virus is spreading “unmonitored and undetected” throughout the jail. For its part, MCC has failed to trace and quarantine those who have been in contact with affected inmates and staff in opposition to written guidance from the federal Bureau of Prisons and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suit says.
Of the MCC’s alleged treatment of those who’ve tested positive for coronavirus, the plaintiffs claim the facility has wholly failed to observe effective social distancing and quarantining measures. As the complaint tells it, the facility’s handling of coronavirus-positive inmates can be considered lackluster at best and actively dangerous at worst. From the suit:
“The MCC’s treatment of those suspected of having COVID-19 is as ill-conceived as it is inhumane. In multiple instances, the MCC has simply left symptomatic inmates in open dormitories in which more than two dozen men bunk closely together, sharing a single toilet and one or two sinks. Unsurprisingly, the virus has spread rapidly through at least one of the units that contain these open dormitories. Other inmates with COVID-19 symptoms have been confined to cells with concrete ‘beds’ that were used to hold 9/11 terrorist defendants. Inmates suspected of infection have received, at best, only cursory medical attention."
Further still, MCC has failed to take “obvious, common-sense” health and hygiene measures considered crucial to slowing the spread of the virus. More from the complaint:
“Toilets, showers, phones, and computer keyboards have not been sanitized between uses. Inmates have received only paper or thin cloth masks, when they receive them at all, and have been told to reuse them for a week or more. Inmates have had no access to hand sanitizer or gloves. MCC staff members have circulated from unit to unit, often without masks or gloves.”
Taken together, MCC’s shortcomings with regard to managing the coronavirus in its facility, from its apparent failure to reduce overcrowding to the absence of proper sanitization, have jeopardized the health and safety of more than 200 inmates, the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiffs argue judicial intervention is necessary in order to compel MCC to take proper steps to combat the outbreak within its facility. Further, inmates “nearing the end of their sentences, and other inmates for whom release is reasonable under the extraordinary circumstances” of the pandemic, should be released into home confinement, while others should be transferred to alternate facilities, the suit maintains.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.