HARTFORD – The Connecticut Superior Court today held a telephone hearing for oral arguments regarding a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Connecticut seeking emergency court action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the number of people who are incarcerated in Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) prisons and jails. At the hearing’s conclusion, Judge Barbara Bellis stated that she would attempt to rule on the case by the end of the month.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a critical emergency, and it is rapidly spreading in Connecticut prisons and jails. One person has already died in the Connecticut DOC’s care, and the lives of people living and working in Connecticut prisons are at risk. The court should be moving with the extreme urgency this life or death situation demands,” said Dan Barrett, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut and an attorney on the case. “It is appalling that instead of concentrating on protecting and saving the lives of people living and working in Connecticut prisons and jails, the State is focusing its arguments on legal technicalities and bureaucratic nonsense.”
“People who are incarcerated and their loved ones do not have the luxury of time, and they need the court to act now to protect them,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “In the past week alone, one person incarcerated by the State has died, the number of COVID-19 cases among incarcerated people has nearly quadrupled, the number of COVID-19 cases among DOC workers has nearly tripled, loved ones of incarcerated people continued pleading for the Governor to listen to them by releasing their family members, and the DOC healthcare workers’ union submitted a brief asking for releases to protect workers from COVID-19. The message is clear: Connecticut’s prisons and jails are among the most unsafe, unhealthy places for people to be right now, and the State needs to issue a real plan for release immediately.”
The ACLU of Connecticut filed the lawsuit in Superior Court on April 3, seeking immediate action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the number of people who are incarcerated in Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) prisons and jails. The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the CCDLA and six people who are incarcerated, including one man with an autoimmune condition and another scheduled for release in May.
On April 14, the New England Healthcare Employees Union, 1199 SEIU, submitted a friend of the court brief in support of the lawsuit. As that brief states, that union “is the exclusive representative of approximately 600 frontline health care workers in the DOC, including doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, and other health care professionals in Connecticut’s jails and prisons.” To access that brief: http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/DocumentInquiry/DocumentInquiry.aspx?DocumentNo=18991959
In addition to Barrett, attorneys representing CCDLA and incarcerated people on the case include Elana Bildner (ACLU-CT), Hope Metcalf (Allard K. Lowenstein Int’l Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School), Miriam Gohara (Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization), and Marisol Orihuela (Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization).
For additional information about the lawsuit: https://www.acluct.org/en/cases/connecticut-criminal-defense-lawyers-association-et-al-v-lamont-and-cook