During the COVID-19 crisis, jails and prisons failed to take basic measures to protect incarcerated people from catching the deadly coronavirus. Social distancing in jail is impossible, quarantining and contact tracing procedures were lax or non-existent, and jails failed to take simple hygiene measures like ensuring that people had sufficient soap and cleaning supplies.
In April 2020 the ACLU of Michigan and coalition partners filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Oakland County Jail for violating the constitutional rights of detainees by exposing them to an unacceptable risk of contagion. Judge Linda Parker granted our motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, ordered the jail to improve its conditions and policies, and established a process for medically vulnerable inmates to seek release on bail. Unfortunately, in July 2020 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision by a vote of 2-1. The case then returned to the district court, where the jail filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In December 2020 Judge Parker denied the motion to dismiss.
In June 2021 we reached a settlement agreement that would require the jail to offer vaccines to all inmates, promote the vaccine using videos and literature attesting to its safety and efficacy, and undertake other strong measures recommended by the CDC to promote health and safety in the jail. The settlement was approved in July 2021 and we will monitor its implementation through the end of October. In a separate lawsuit by other organizations against the Wayne County Jail, we filed friend-of-the-court briefs asking the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision denying relief, but the appellate courts refused to act.
(Cameron v. Bouchard; Wayne County Inmates v. Wayne County Sheriff; ACLU Attorneys Phil Mayor, Syeda Davidson, and Dan Korobkin; Marques Banks, Thomas Harvey and Krithika Santhanam of the Advancement Project; Alex Twinem and Alec Karakatsanis of Civil Rights Corps; Cary McGehee and Kevin Carlson of Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers; Allison Kriger of LaRene & Kriger; ACLU Cooperating Attorney Margo Schlanger.)