U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS refuses to block order to move at-risk inmates at prison with high COVID-19 rate

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The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to stay a judge’s order requiring the Federal Bureau of Prisons to release or transfer inmates at an Ohio prison who face greater risks if they contract COVID-19.

The Supreme Court rejected the government’s request to stay U.S. District Judge James Gwin’s April 22 injunction, report the Washington Post, USA Today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the New York Times.

A press release by the American Civil Liberties Union is here.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch would have granted the stay, according to the Supreme Court order.

The ACLU had represented the inmates, who are housed at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution, a dormitory-style prison where one in four inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. Nine inmates have died at the prison.

Gwin’s April 22 injunction required the Federal Bureau of Prisons to identify Elkton inmates whose age and underlying conditions put them at risk for the virus, according to prior coverage by Cleveland.com.

Gwin ordered the bureau to determine which inmates could be released and then to release them using measures such as home confinement and furloughs. The other inmates should be moved to prisons where appropriate measures can reduce the risk, Gwin said.

On May 19, Gwin said prison officials had identified 837 at-risk inmates but had made “only minimal effort to get at-risk inmates out of harm’s way.” Cleveland.com had covered Gwin’s new order.

Gwin ordered the bureau to “make full use of the home confinement authority beyond the paltry grants of home confinement it has already issued.”

The Supreme Court noted that the federal government was seeking a stay of the April 22 order but not the May 19 order.

“Particularly in light of that procedural posture, the court declines to stay the district court’s April 22 preliminary injunction without prejudice to the government seeking a new stay if circumstances warrant,” the Supreme Court said.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Sotomayor statement highlights ‘disturbing allegations’ in geriatric inmates’ COVID-19 suit”

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