DC jail settles allegations of unsafe conditions in pandemic outbreak

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The D.C. jail on Monday settled a 2020 lawsuit concerning unsafe conditions during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Washington Post reported.

The lawyers of the inmates who filed the suit said they would drop the case if the D.C. government agrees to unannounced inspections and data-sharing for up to six months, as well as providing proper medical care and sanitation for the inmates.

“This agreement will ensure safer conditions in [Department of Corrections] DOC facilities for Plaintiffs far sooner than a litigated outcome,” the lawyers involved told the court. “Under the circumstances of the Omicron variant of covid-19 now spreading throughout the world, the Parties determined that the benefits of the proposed settlement outweigh the risks of continued litigation.”

The proposed settlement deal was submitted Tuesday for approval by a federal judge.

The four inmates involved in the class-action lawsuit are being represented by the D.C. Public Defender Service, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of the District of Columbia, the Munger, Tolles & Olson law firm and the office of D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

The D.C. ACLU released a statement urging the D.C. Council to put permanent reforms in place for the safety of prisoners, including creating an independent oversight body that will report on jail conditions.

“These measures will protect incarcerated people, officers, and the whole community,” said plaintiff Edward Banks of the proposed reforms. “It should have never come to a lawsuit to force the D.C. Jail to protect the people in their custody.”

The inmates’ lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to set a final approval hearing for the deal April 12.

Tags COVID-19 D.C. jail Outbreak Pandemic in prisons

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