filed what's called a habeas petition
on behalf of inmates at the Elkton federal prison in Ohio. (A habeas petition is a civil action usually taken by or on behalf of a prisoner against a prison or warden.)
The groups argued that, based on the dangerous conditions that had spread COVID-19 to at least 67 inmates and 12 staff members in the facility as the virus raged in the low-security prison since late March and early April, all medically vulnerable inmates should be transferred out to home confinement or released immediately.
Inmates had described the impossible conditions inside to family members, media, and in videos they posted on smuggled cell phones. Social distancing was literally impossible. Soap was a scarce resource. Masks even scarcer. More than 2,000 inmate were readily in danger, corrections officers were in quarantine, the National Guard was being brought in by Gov. Mike DeWine to assist healthcare workers dealing with the dozens of inmates who were displaying symptoms.
And, as of two days ago, three inmates had died.
“People at Elkton are dying. The situation is particularly dire, even compared to other corrections facilities,” David Carey, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Ohio, said in a statement on Monday. “We’ve already seen that prisons are tinderboxes for COVID-19 because people are forced to exist in close, shared spaces for eating, sleeping, and bathing. Our clients, like everyone else in Elkton, are clustered together and completely unable to practice social distancing. Time is of the essence, and every day that goes by allows this disease to spread both inside and outside the prison walls. Further delay will result in further death.”
Today, there are now six dead inmates.
Every day that goes by, in fact, does continue to kill people.
“Prisons are not Constitution-free zones. People who live and work in prisons should not be forced to face unnecessary risk of death and disease,” Joseph Mead, Cooperating Attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, said in a statement.
Talking to Scene last week, one relative of an inmate shared a similar sentiment: "These men didn't get a death sentence. Why aren't more provisions being made?"