ACLU-MN sues Waseca federal prison over COVID-19 issues

American Civil Liberties Union Photo: KSTP. American Civil Liberties Union

Updated: December 09, 2020 07:27 PM
Created: December 09, 2020 04:24 PM

Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against the federal prison in Waseca due to its handling of COVID-19.

The lawsuit says 70% of inmates at the prison contracted the virus in just three months after a positive test in August, saying the spread was "completely avoidable." It also alleges that M. Starr, the prison's warden, and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal, are refusing to release medically vulnerable people with conditions like autoimmune diseases, diabetes, asthma, hypertension and obesity to ensure their safety from COVID-19.

"The Bureau of Prisons has failed to respond in any meaningful way to the pandemic, leading to uncontrolled outbreaks at several facilities, including FCI-Waseca," ACLU-MN staff attorney Clare Diegel said. "Refusing to release medically vulnerable people who are at the most risk from COVID-19, and instead packing them into bunks just a few feet apart, is no way to handle a highly infectious and deadly virus. The Bureau of Prisons is failing to act with either common sense or humanity."

The lawsuit seeks emergency orders requiring the immediate transfer of the most medically vulnerable inmates to home confinement, the immediate implementation of social distancing and hygiene measures, and adequate medical care from those still suffering from the virus, even those determined to be "recovered."

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