December 1, 2020
DENVER – ACLU of Colorado and the Weld County Sheriff have come to a resolution of last April’s class action lawsuit over Sheriff Reams’ failure to take adequate measures to protect people in his jail from COVID-19. Reams and ACLU jointly asked the federal court in Denver to enter a consent decree to memorialize the terms of the resolution.
“Last spring, COVID-19 was spreading quickly through the Weld County Jail, and only action by the court and agreement by both parties will change the deadly course of events there,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “With this resolution, people held in the Weld County Jail as well as staff and the public at large stand a fighting chance against this virus.”
The following is a list of key provisions of the proposed consent decree, which builds on, and adds to, the preliminary injunction previously imposed by the court:
- Medically vulnerable persons are identified when they arrive at the jail, are afforded heightened protections including single-celling when possible, and regular medical monitoring
- Measures are put in place to promote social distancing
- Masks are distributed to all persons at the jail, and are required to be used
- Persons held at the jail receive COVID-19 testing consistent with CDC guidelines
- With only limited exceptions, through the end of the COVID-19 crisis, the jail does not accept persons charged with misdemeanors, municipal offenses, and petty offenses
- The Sheriff will regularly advise police chiefs in Weld county to minimize custodial arrests and instead issue court summonses or personal recognizance bonds
- The Sheriff will provide regular reports to the Chief Judge of the Weld County District Court, so that the court can undertake reviews to consider persons for release from the jail when feasible.
The proposed consent decree also calls for continued data sharing on jail population and COVID-19 infections.
This resolution comes as COVID-19 rates skyrocket throughout the state and officials announce tougher new restrictions including increased social distancing to curb widespread transmission of the virus. COVID-19 cases are rising across Colorado’ s correctional facilities among incarcerated people and staff. There are active outbreaks in several DOC facilities, with more than 1000 active cases among incarcerated people.
“Our state, like much of the country, is in crisis with COVID-19,” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Dan Williams of Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC. “We can no longer ignore the role that jails play in this pandemic. This proposed consent decree will save lives.”
The legal team includes ACLU staff attorneys, Killmer Lane and Newman, LLP, David Maxted of Maxted Law LLC, Jamie Hubbard, of Stimson Stancil LaBranche Hubbard LLC, and ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Dan Williams and Lauren Groth of Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC.
For a list of resources and recent actions by ACLU of Colorado and others to stop the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons go to: https://aclu-co.org/doingmypartco/
The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.