The DC Department of Corrections (DOC) has agreed to implement a number of comprehensive COVID-19 protections as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit.
The announcement came from the ACLU of the District of Columbia, who filed the lawsuit in March 2020 on behalf of the residents of the DC Jail, along with the Public Defender Service for DC and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson.
“It should have never come to a lawsuit to force the D.C. Jail to protect the people in their custody,” Edward Banks, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “These measures will protect incarcerated people, officers, and the whole community.”
According to the lawsuit, the correctional facility failed to control the spread of COVID-19 among prisoners and it was “deliberately indifferent” to the rights of the people in its jail.
In January 2021, six months after an injunction was issued requiring DOC to take basic coronavirus precautions, the federal court found that there still was no full implementation.
Under the settlement, DOC will allow an independent infectious disease expert to carry out random inspections up to five times over six months in order to confirm whether the facilities comply with the settlement’s terms.
The expert will assess the following points:
- Sanitation and hygiene, including residents’ access to cleaning supplies
- Promptness of medical care for COVID-19 related symptoms
- Masking for staff
- Contact tracing for jail residents and staff who test positive for the virus
- Social distancing
- Reasonable access to showers and recreation, including outdoor and outside-of-cell time
- Ensuring that residents on medical quarantine and isolation units are not subjected to punitive conditions that would discourage reporting of symptoms
“We are glad that the District has finally agreed to implement basic COVID-19 precautions,” said attorney Zoé Friedland of the Public Defender Service. “This settlement is an important step in protecting the health and safety of the people incarcerated by the District in the D.C. Jail.”