Crime and Courts

Judge: Outside Experts Can Visit Immigrant Detention Center With Virus Outbreak

More than 80% of the Farmville Detention Center's 300 detainees have tested positive for the virus, and one of those detained has died

Farmville Detention Center

Two outside experts will be allowed to inspect an immigration detention center in Virginia that has seen the worst coronavirus outbreak at any such facility in the nation, a federal judge said during a virtual hearing Monday.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema agreed to a request from lawyers of inmates who have filed a lawsuit over conditions to allow a medical expert to conduct an inspection at the private facility in Farmville.

Brinkema also agreed to a request from lawyers representing those running the facility to bring in one of their own experts as well.

The judge instructed attorneys on both sides to draft an order allowing the visit. She could sign it as early as Monday afternoon. The visit could occur as early as this week.

More than 80% of the center’s 300 detainees have tested positive for the virus, and one of those detained has died.

Last week, the judge ordered immigration authorities to halt transfers into the detention center. She also excoriated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for accepting 74 transfers from facilities in Florida and Arizona.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent in its own team to inspect the facility last week.

Dr. Homer Venters, the expert hired by the inmates' attorneys, wrote in recently filed court documents that he attended a debrief provided by the CDC after its team visited the facility.

Based on CDC observations, Venters wrote that it was difficult to maintain social distancing in some areas of the facility. He also wrote that staff do not use personal protective equipment appropriately and that many staff had exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and continued working.

Jeffrey Crawford, the director of Immigration Centers of America-Farmville, responded in his own filing.

“CDC officials stated that ICA Farmville was largely in compliance with CDC recommendations, with only a few minor operational recommendations offered at that time, all of which I intend to implement at the facility,” he wrote.


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