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Supreme Court denies Trump officials' effort to block order on moving at-risk inmates

Supreme Court denies Trump officials' effort to block order on moving at-risk inmates
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The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will not block a federal judge's order requiring a prison suffering from a coronavirus outbreak to begin moving at-risk inmates from the facility.

The court denied the Trump administration's request for a stay of the order, but left open the possibility that the government could appeal again further along in the court proceedings.

While the court denied the effort to temporarily halt the order, Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasDefusing the judicial confirmation process Will the Supreme Court take ObamaCare off life-support? The overlooked significance Kamala Harris brought to the Biden-Harris ticket MORE, Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoAlito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open No thank you, Dr. Fauci COVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchCOVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Defusing the judicial confirmation process Reinvesting in American leadership MORE signaled they would have granted the stay.

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In April, a district court judge in Ohio ordered officials at the low-security Elkton Federal Correctional Institution to begin evaluating inmates for potential transfers amid a severe outbreak at the facility.

Last week, the judge ordered the swift removal of more than 800 prisoners who had been identified as being susceptible to the virus.

The Supreme Court said it would not issue a stay of the order from April, but noted that the Trump administration would be free to appeal the decision from last week.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), 162 inmates and 7 staff members at Elkton have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The facility houses 2,312 inmates.

The ACLU, which is representing a group of inmates in the case, argued in a brief to the Supreme Court that conditions in the facility make prisoners especially vulnerable to the spread of the virus.

"They are housed, cheek by jowl, in dormitory-style rooms of approximately 150 persons each," ACLU attorneys argued. "Though well aware that social distancing is an indispensable means of protecting themselves, they are powerless to use it. The result has been a severe COVID-19 outbreak lasting months, causing the deaths — so far —of at least nine people and infecting hundreds more among prisoners and staff."

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The Department of Justice, which is representing the BOP, argues that the district court orders are "deeply flawed" and that the facility's staff has implemented safeguards against the spread of the infection.

"They have minimized social interactions; distributed necessary cleaning supplies, masks, and protective equipment; and established quarantine, testing, and treatment protocols," the department wrote in a brief. "Furthermore, when Elkton experienced a number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, prison officials worked to both limit transmission of the virus and ensure that those affected receive adequate medical treatment."

-- Updated at 3:14 p.m.