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State, ACLU reach agreement on inmate COVID-19 protections

The agreement requires the DOC to prioritize elderly and medically vulnerable people for release programs

The State and the ACLU of Connecticut have reached an agreement to resolve the lawsuit filed on behalf of incarcerated inmates and protecting them against COVID-19. 

The ACLU announced the agreement. 

The federal lawsuit, McPherson v Lamont, is pending approval from a federal judge. The ACLU said in a press release, that the suit was filed, "on behalf of people incarcerated in Connecticut Department of Correction prisons and jails seeking changes to protect people who are incarcerated from COVID-19. The agreement requires the Department of Correction to follow procedures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all people who are incarcerated in DOC prisons and jails pre-trial and post-sentence."

Governor Ned Lamont said, “This settlement affirms the approach that the Department of Correction has been taking since the beginning of this pandemic. The department will continue to act in this responsible manner as identified by the court and by this settlement.”

Attorney General William Tong, “We are pleased the parties were able to work together to resolve these difficult issues collaboratively and with the best interests of all involved.”

Department of Correction Commissioner Rollin Cook said, “I am pleased about the agreement. Both parties came to the table with mutual interest in codifying practices that best protect people who are incarcerated and the dedicated employees that care for them. Unity and collaboration will always prevail. Today is an example of that. This has been an unprecedented time in our country and I am most proud of how our staff and leaders have selflessly performed their essential duties to ensure the health and safety of those entrusted to our care. Their courageous efforts have saved lives and positively impacted our entire community. In fact, I believe Connecticut will be viewed as the balanced, compassionate and collaborative example to follow during such crisis in the future.”

The agreement is pending approval from a federal judge.

Back in March, the Department of Corrections said it was looking to release eligible inmates on a case by case basis. 

Seven inmates have died in Connecticut prisons from COVID-19 related causes. Advocates said one man died shortly after being released. 

If approved, the ACLU said the DOC agrees to prioritize elderly and medically vulnerable people for release programs, provide certain hygiene and sanitation practices, and institute to other human rights requirements. 

"Under the agreement, the DOC is required to: identify people age 65 and above and people at a medical risk scale of 4 or 5 and fast track those people for consideration for release; stop imposing punitive measures such as loss of housing status, program access, work assignments, or phone privileges because someone has tested positive or is presumed positive; provide regular access to showers with running water, including for people who have tested positive or are presumed positive; institute and follow a system-wide cleaning schedule; distribute antiseptic cleaning supplies for people to be able to clean their areas if they wish to; provide people with disinfectant to wipe down phones between uses; test all people who are incarcerated, dependent on individualized informed consent; ensure people have least at two free bars of soap at all times; ensure people have at least two clean and functional masks at all times; and follow additional requirements. Under the agreement, a five-member panel of experts will be responsible for reviewing the DOC’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and making continual recommendations to the parties accordingly."

“People who are incarcerated are people, with human rights, dignity, and healthcare needs. It is critical for the State of Connecticut to protect people who are incarcerated from COVID-19, and it is our hope these new measures will protect people from COVID-19 while also treating them with dignity. It will require our constant vigilance to ensure the DOC keeps the promises it has made in this agreement,” said Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut’s legal director and an attorney on the case.

If accepted by the court, the agreement would resolve two lawsuits, McPherson v Lamont and CCDLA v Lamont. If accepted by the court, the agreement would run until December 31, 2020.

A copy of the agreement is available online.

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