Judge Denies Request to Release DC Inmates, Orders Better Protections Against COVID-19

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NBC Washington

A D.C. District Court judge denied a request to release inmates from two Department of Corrections facilities after inmates sued the department for lack of protections against the coronavirus.

Inmates in the Central Detention Facility and Correctional Treatment Facility brought a lawsuit against the director and warden of the Department of Corrections. They were seeking release from the detention centers as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.

The judge ruled on Sunday that she would not allow for the release of additional inmates, but did issue new orders for the facilities to follow. The jail must improve their tracking of inmates reporting symptoms, step up enforcement of social distancing and better the system for isolating and tracking sick patients.

The facility must also ensure isolated inmates can still call lawyers.

“(Inmates) have produced evidence that inadequate precautionary measures at DOC facilities have increased their risk of contracting COVID-19 and facing serious health consequences, including death. The Court further notes that the number of inmates testing positive for COVID-19 is growing daily,” judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling.

This ruling comes after an unannounced inspection was ordered of the jails to investigate the claims made in the lawsuit.

As of Saturday, 80 inmates in D.C. have tested positive for COVID-19. Fifty are no longer in isolation after recovering, the D.C. Department of Corrections said in a release Saturday. A 51-year-old inmate died from the coronavirus on Monday.

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