“I have not had a shower in nearly two weeks,” one inmate says in a declaration included in the lawsuit, filed by the Civil Rights Corps. “Instead, I have been forced to wash myself as best I can in a dirty, mildewed sink. In the isolation cell, I had a bar of soap for myself, but now in the ten-man cell I have to share the sink and bar of soap with the other men in here.”
The county’s Department of Corrections reported its first positive case in the jail March 30. On Tuesday, an official said more than 15 inmates and 21 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“None of these individuals are acutely ill and they are all isolated from the general population,” Andrew Cephas, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, wrote in an email.
Three of the staff members have recovered and returned to work, Cephas said.
Cephas said officials were still reviewing the lawsuit and deciding whether to comment on the assertions in the court filing.
The county also has the highest number of reported cases and deaths in the Washington region.
The lawsuit was filed as an emergency class action on behalf of inmates with medical conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Among those identified in the court papers are inmates with chronic bronchitis and severe asthma, including those who have experienced symptoms of the virus. One asked for medical attention or a test, according to the lawsuit, but was refused and told that the medical unit was too full. Another inmate, according to the lawsuit, says he has not seen anyone clean or sanitize any surfaces in his unit.
“As COVID-19 sweeps through the facility, the jail’s abysmal conditions — overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate health care — have only made the outbreak worse,” Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
“Jails are ill-equipped to handle a crisis of this magnitude. The best way to reduce the spread of the virus is to release as many people as possible,” he said.
Prince George’s County prosecutors announced Monday that 150 inmates had been released from the jail in recent weeks in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.