Lawsuit Seeks Release of Detainees at Shelby County Jail After COVID-19 Outbreak

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A new lawsuit seeks the release of inmates at the Shelby County Jail who are at “high risk of severe injury or death from COVID-19.”

As of Friday afternoon, the jail reported 160 confirmed coronavirus cases among detainees, but 156 have already recovered, according to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. Another 68 employees have tested positive for the virus, 46 of whom have recovered. Only one current hospitalization was reported among both employees and detainees.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the sheriff’s office in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Just City on behalf of two detainees in the jail.

According to a press release, the lawsuit asks for the “identification of medically vulnerable individuals held at the jail and the immediate release of vulnerable people, most immediately those who are detained solely on the basis of their inability to satisfy a financial condition of pretrial release, or solely on the basis of a technical violation of probation or parole unless the county demonstrates that an individual poses a flight or safety risk.”

The complaint argues that the jail has “failed to uphold constitutional and statutory minimum requirements, putting people behind bars at unacceptable risk of serious complications and death from COVID-19.”

“It is especially cruel that most of the people at great risk of infection in the jail would not be there if they had financial resources,” Josh Spickler, executive director at Just City, said in a statement. “Now is the time for Shelby County to end money bail, significantly reduce its jail population, and focus on protecting the entire community from this deadly virus.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is violating the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

A March report from the Tennessee Department of Correction notes that 86 percent of detainees at the jail were there on pretrial holds.

“As public health experts have consistently warned, jails are dangerous incubators for this disease – threatening the health of those who live and work behind bars as well as their surrounding communities,” said Thomas Castelli, ACLU of Tennessee legal director. “Incarceration should not be a death sentence.”

An outbreak at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility remains the third largest coronavirus cluster in the nation.

Shelby County has had the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in Tennessee with 4,127 cumulative cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Department of Health. Davidson County has had the most cases with 4,396 cumulative positive results.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Shelby County Sheriff Jail Transport Van” by Thomas R Machnitzki. CC BY 3.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Thoughts to “Lawsuit Seeks Release of Detainees at Shelby County Jail After COVID-19 Outbreak”

  1. CCW

    So you want to release COVID19 infected and COVID19 carriers from prison into community of innocents. Is that it?

    Here is a better plan, release them into the sunny resort of Guantanamo Bay where they can get plenty of Vitamin C and D until it is safe to return.

  2. Freeman

    Another way to look at this, a zero mortality rate, I’m surprised some flaming leftist hasn’t proposed putting everybody in jail.

  3. 83ragtop50

    There is no guarantee that those who break the law and are imprisoned will be disease free.
    Just another excuse for bleeding hearts to try to get a feel good at the expense of law abiding citizens.

  4. Kevin

    Absolutely ridiculous! Next year it will be because inmates are allergic to stripes?

    Has the ACLU filed a law suit against any government for forced domicile incarceration? Have they filed a law suit to protect businesses that were forced to close their doors?

    Maybe soon somebody will stand up for citizens, certainly in many respects, government has fallen down on this job.

  5. John Bumpus

    “The lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the sheriff’s office in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Just City on behalf of two detainees in the jail.”

    MORE left-wing crazies who are perfectly fine with unleashing mayhem and murder on the good people of Shelby County!

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