HARTFORD – In a letter to lawyers for the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC), the ACLU of Connecticut announced “systemic patterns of non-compliance by the Department of Correction” with multiple measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s prisons. The measures are required by the settlement agreement in McPherson v. Lamont, a federal class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, which mandates specific hygiene, sanitation, safety, and testing standards to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19.
Based on information from people who are incarcerated, their loved ones, and lawyers visiting clients in custody, the ACLU of Connecticut has received consistent, repeated reports from across the DOC’s 14 facilities that the DOC is not adhering to its court-mandated requirements regarding:
- requiring DOC staff to wear masks
- regularly providing masks for people who are incarcerated
- distribution of soap
- cleaning of common areas
- cleaning of cells, cubicles, and sleeping areas
- providing showers
- wiping down phones between use
- quarantining of people who have tested positive for COVID-19
“These systemic patterns of non-compliance are particularly alarming given rapidly rising positivity rates across Connecticut—and within DOC, as evidenced by the recent outbreak at Hartford Correctional Center,” wrote ACLU of Connecticut attorneys Elana Bildner and Dan Barrett. “Compliance is getting worse, not better, and just as COVID-19 positivity rates spike, again, in Connecticut.”
Elana Bildner, ACLU of Connecticut staff attorney, said: “While we continue to believe that releasing people from incarceration is the best way to protect them from COVID-19, the purpose of this settlement agreement is to establish a floor for health and safety for anyone who remains inside. It is deeply disturbing, and an issue of public health, that the Department of Correction is not taking seriously the critical precautions mandated by this agreement. The threat of COVID-19 is far from over, and there can be no excuses for the DOC’s refusal to protect public health by failing to follow even these most basic hygiene, sanitation, and safety requirements.
By far, the number one complaint we have received is about DOC staff not wearing masks, something that is required both by this settlement agreement and under Governor Lamont’s executive order. Getting the protections of this agreement in place took months of concerted effort from many people, including incarcerated people speaking out about conditions in prison during the pandemic. It is in everyone’s interest – people living and working in our state’s prisons, as well as people outside — for the DOC to do it everything it can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside.”
The settlement agreement went into effect on July 20, 2020 and expires on December 31, 2020.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, lawyers from the assistant attorney general’s office, who are representing the DOC, have until Nov. 12 to respond to the ACLU of Connecticut’s letter.
For a copy of the letter reporting DOC non-compliance: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/2020-10-23_letter_to_aags_re_mcpherson_settlement_violations_002.pdf
For a copy of the settlement agreement: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/119-1_2020-06-27_ex._a_1.pdf