State dismisses lawsuit filed by ACLU-MN over COVID-19 response in prisons

The state of Minnesota has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN), stating that prisons were not doing enough in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to court documents, the Ramsey County District Court granted the state’s motion to dismiss the latest complaint on Monday. In addition, a temporary injunction was also denied, finding that there hadn’t been any legally sufficient claims that constitutional rights had been violated and the ACLU-MN would be "unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims."

"The Court further notes that, other than appointing a monitor from the Minnesota Department of Health, the DOC has offered that it is already complying with all of the relief that Petitioners seek. As such, the Court remains hopeful that the Petitioners and Respondents can continue to work together to promote the health and safety of incarcerated Minnesotans statewide," the document states.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections says COVID-19 vaccines have been offered to all inmates in the state’s system. As of Monday, 80% of inmates have been vaccinated, which exceeds vaccination rates "in both the general public and other similarly-situated prison systems."

The department of corrections "continues to encourage vaccine-hesistant individuals to get their shots," according to the filing. According to the department, the active infection rate among Minnesota inmates is less than "Minnesota’s general population positivity rate."

"It appears that the DOC was the opposite of deliberately indifferent — it conducted outreach, shared communication, and sent the Commissioner and members of his executive staff onsite to convince vaccine-hesistant individuals to get the shot," court records state.

The ACLU-MN filed the class-action lawsuit in October of last year, alleging that the department had failed to put measures in to stop or slow the transmission of COVID-19, claiming it had violated its legal obligation to protect the people in its custody from the virus.

A KSTP request for comment to the ACLU-MN early Wednesday has yet to be returned.