ACLU and Weld County Sheriff’s Office resolve federal lawsuit over COVID-19 concerns

The ACLU of Colorado and the Weld County Sheriff’s Office have resolved a federal lawsuit concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to protect jail inmates.

In April, the ACLU filed a lawsuit claiming that the sheriff’s office failed to meet public health orders to protect inmates, correctional staff and the public. On Tuesday the ACLU announced a resolution — a proposed consent decree — in the case.

“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, in the release. “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.”

Provisions of the proposed consent decree, which builds on and adds to the preliminary injunction previously imposed by the court, include:

  • Medically vulnerable persons, identified when they arrive at the jail, are placed in single-cell housing when possible, and they receive 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
  • People 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 misdemeanor, municipal 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 Weld County District Court, so the court can consider inmate release. 

The resolution calls for continued data sharing on jail populations and COVID-19 infections.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Colorado correctional facilities, the release said, 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. “We can no longer ignore the role that jails play in this pandemic. This proposed consent decree will save lives.”

A spokesperson for the Weld County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment.

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