A couple inmates at Metropolitan Correctional Center recently decided to sue the facility over its handling of COVID-19.
A lawsuit was recently filed against the Metropolitan Correctional Center by a group of inmates who allege the federal facility failed to protect people in custody and staff from two major outbreaks. The suit states the measures the jail had in place were “haphazard and insufficient.” For example, the proposed class-action lawsuit states there was a “lack of cleaning supplies and proper social distancing measures, as well as a poorly implemented and incomplete isolation and quarantine process.”
In addition, the suit, which was filed in federal court in Chicago, alleges “officials turned a blind eye to staff who didn’t wear masks and ignored some people in custody who asked for tests.” The plaintiffs include inmates Ricky Price and Kevin Conway. In the suit, they allege the “Federal Bureau of Prisons and MCC officials have failed not once, but twice, to protect the people in their custody from the pandemic.” Because of that alleged failure, “more than 200 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility,” according to the Bureau of Prisons’ website. However, the suit claims the actual infection rate is probably higher.
When commenting on the matter, Camille Bennett, director of the Prison Reform Project at the ACLU of Illinois and an attorney representing the inmates, said:
“It is hard to define what MCC officials are doing as a strategy for confronting COVID…They failed in the spring and they have not learned a single lesson. There must be a specific, science-based plan to protect those detained at the MCC.”
In fact, the suit alleges the facility “carried on business as usual in many ways” even after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in late March. For example, inmates continued to “work their jobs throughout the building, including in the kitchen, though they were not provided masks, and many staff didn’t wear masks or gloves.” Typically, the facility “relied on residents self-reporting their symptoms.” However, “many were deterred from reporting their symptoms because they didn’t want to relocate to the secure-housing unit, which is normally for disciplinary purposes,” the suit claims. According to the plaintiffs, the units in the secure-housing unit were small, dark, and noisy.
To make matters worse, the suit argues that when inmates did become ill, they weren’t properly treated. This left inmates “terrified and depressed.” On top of that, bar soap is frequently limited, as are other essential cleaning supplies, and “laundry services are backed up, leaving some residents unable to wash their sheets for weeks at a time,” the suit claims. Common spaces, such as showers and computer areas also weren’t properly cleaned after each use, the plaintiffs allege. In fact, “the disinfecting of shared surfaces and cleaning is so poor that one floor had an outbreak of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) last summer.” The suit further states:
“They have failed their responsibilities under federal law, the Constitution, and their own regulations. It is now time to order them to protect Plaintiffs and the Class.”
For now, the suit is demanding the Federal Bureau of Prisons and MCC officials develop a vaccination distribution plan that will educate residents and staff about the safety of the vaccines and begin administering the vaccines to inmates 55 and older. Additionally, the plaintiffs want facility officials to “design a better quarantine and isolation process, which includes testing all new residents at intake and putting them in a separate and safe holding space.”