Civil Rights Organizations Sue Oakland County Jail For Immediate Release of Vulnerable People Ahead of Deadly COVID-19 Spread - Advancement Project - Advancement Project

Civil Rights Organizations Sue Oakland County Jail For Immediate Release of Vulnerable People Ahead of Deadly COVID-19 Spread

MEDIA CONTACTS
Joshua Garner, 240-326-3874, [email protected]

 

Advocates warn outbreak is imminent inside county jail

Oakland County, MI – Today several civil rights and racial justice groups filed a federal lawsuit calling for the release of medically vulnerable people inside the Oakland County Jail, arguing that county officials are risking the lives of everyone inside and the community at large because of their failure to respond to the threat of COVID-19. Naming Oakland County, its Sheriff, Michael Bouchard, and Commander of Corrective Services Curtis D. Childs, the lawsuit filed by Advancement Project National Office, American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU), Civil Rights Corps (CRC), LaRene & Kriger P.L.C. and the Law Firm of Pitt, McGhee, Palmer and Rivers in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, argues that Oakland County officials are violating the constitutional rights of people in the jail by exposing them to an unnecessary risk of infection, illness or death during the coronavirus pandemic.

[CLICK HERE TO READ FULL COMPLAINT]

“I am 42 years old…. I suffer from hypertension, cardiac disease, and obesity. I had a mild heart attack in 2015, and I still experience chest pains from time to time,” said Michael Cameron, a plaintiff in the case who is currently being held inside Oakland County Jail. “I am terrified that if I catch the coronavirus, I will not be able to fight it off. I worry about dying in the hospital with no family around me. I worry about who will protect my son.”

The lawsuit also asks the court to order Oakland County officials to immediately adopt comprehensive measures to protect the safety and health of people in jail.

On a typical day, jails provide inadequate health care and are places that cause serious harm to the people confined there. Now, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the stakes are higher–the Oakland County Jail has already recorded 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Those held inside the jail lack consistent access to soap, sanitizer, and are unable to practice social distancing, according to the suit. Families are outraged and local advocates are fighting for the release of this vulnerable population.

“We were horrified by the inhumane conditions including lack of adequate food, crowded living quarters, and lack of hygiene products to keep people safe inside Oakland County Jail during the pandemic,” said Earl Burton, a community organizer with Michigan Liberation, which is advocating for the families of incarcerated people inside the county jail alongside the national civil rights and racial justice groups.

The suit also outlines the following conditions inside the jail: People who begin to show symptoms of COVID-19, such as a dry cough, shortness of breath, or a fever, are not immediately tested or quarantined, if at all; staff are not consistently wearing protective personal equipment including gloves and masks; people confined in the jail also face a shortage of gloves and masks.

“People are going to die if immediate action is not taken inside Oakland County Jail. The cruelty of our criminal legal system is on heightened display in this current pandemic as people, including those with serious underlying health issues, are being confined to cages under conditions that make the risk of death or serious injury from COVID-19 a terrifying certainty,” said Krithika Santhanam, Justice Project Staff Attorney at Advancement Project National Office.

If COVID-19 continues to spread inside the Oakland County Jail, many of the people incarcerated there will require urgent care. An outbreak will cause death and devastation to countless lives, according to the suit, and would overwhelm the capacity of the jail’s health services, exacerbate the death toll and the risks to all involved–within and outside the facility. Swift action at the federal, state, and local levels will prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, and detention centers, while having an enormous impact on the wellness of the rest of the country.

“Being locked up in jail should not be a death sentence, but that is what people behind bars are facing in the Oakland County Jail and jails across the state because of this pandemic. At the very least, most incarcerated people who are pre-trial, medically frail, or whose sentences end this year should be released immediately,” said Phil Mayor, a senior attorney with the ACLU of Michigan. “Meanwhile, Oakland County Jail staff must do everything in their power to protect people remaining in their custody by providing adequate soap and disinfectant, ensuring social distancing, and thereby ending their unconscionable retaliation against those attempting to protect themselves from the deadly virus.”

“The most vulnerable in our society unjustly suffer the gravest impact by a crisis like COVID-19. The measures we take to help this population is a reflection of the moral integrity of our society. Protecting the vulnerable jail and prison population not only elevates us as compassionate human beings but also diminishes the damaging impact that this crisis will have on the outside community. Blessed are those who execute justice for the oppressed,” said Cary S. McGehee, Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers P.C.

“COVID-19 presents a life-threatening risk to the people incarcerated in the Oakland County Jail. As we’ve seen repeatedly across the country, people will die in the absence of action,” said Alex Twinem, attorney for the Civil Rights Corps. “Releasing people from cages is the fastest way to stop this crisis. At a minimum, though, the Oakland County Jail must employ basic measures to protect people in the jail, by ensuring proper social distancing and access to soap and cleaning supplies.”

“A COVID-19 outbreak at Oakland County Jail would be nothing short of a nightmare. We already know there are confirmed cases, which means there is an imminent risk of serious illness and death to those held inside the jail, who are essentially defenseless against infection,” said Allison L. Kriger, of the law firm LaRene & Kriger P.L.C. “It’s hard to protect yourself from something you can’t see, and when the most basic protective measures — like physical distancing and adequate hygiene and sanitation–are unavailable, it’s impossible. And, this isn’t just an inmate problem or a jail problem, it’s a human problem and a community problem. Jail staff, vendors, contractors, and visitors exposed to the virus will carry it out into the community. This is preventable, but only if we act immediately.”

In efforts to heavily pressure local and state governments to release people immediately, Advancement Project National Office and Michigan Liberation have created advocacy tools as a call to action for #FreeAndSafe communities. Advancement Project National Office has filed similar suits in St. Louis, Miami and expects more legal action in Detroit and East Baton Rouge.

###

Advancement Project National Office, founded in 1999, is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization with a mission to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy.

Michigan Liberation is a statewide network of people and organizations organizing to end the criminalization of Black families and communities of color in Michigan.

 ACLU of Michigan, founded in 1959, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights in Michigan.

Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers P.C. is one of the state’s largest and most accomplished plaintiff civil rights and employment law firms specializing in representing individuals whose civil rights have been violated through legal action and social engineering.

LaRene & Kriger P.L.C. is a pre-eminent criminal defense firm in Detroit with a long history of both trial and appellate work in notable and challenging cases.

Civil Rights Corps (CRC) is a nonprofit organization working to end the criminalization of poverty through high impact, innovative, anti-racist civil rights litigation and advocacy.

KEEP READING

We won! First of its kind Federal order during COVID-19

As you know, our Justice Project team has been working hard to combat the spread of coronavirus in jails nationwide to keep communities #FreeAndSafe – and today, WE WON! Today, civil rights and racial justice groups have won freedom for medically vulnerable people inside the Oakland County Jail in Michigan, and family members will soon welcome home loved ones eligible to serve their sentence while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. [READ MORE HERE] In response to ours and our partners’ claims that county officials are risking…

Read More
Michigan: First Federal Court Win Ordering Release of Medically Vulnerable People in our Country’s Jails

Civil Rights, Racial Justice Organizations Win Michigan Lawsuit Granting Immediate Release of Medically Vulnerable People During COVID-19 Pandemic

Read More
Quarantine Week 10: Wins, Setbacks and Hope 

“If I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches in the direction of freedom. I’m not backing off.” -Fannie Lou Hamer By Maya Boddie Over the past few months, life has looked different. Schools have closed their doors. Primary elections were delayed or canceled. What we once knew to be normal is no more.  But one thing has remained the same: the need for our work here at Advancement Project National Office. Our model is perfectly situated for us to be first responders in this moment. In the midst of warranted fatigue falling on our lawyers, communications experts, organizers and…

Read More
#FreeBlackMamas with Michigan Liberation this Mother’s Day

Powered by the People #FreeBlackMamas is an annual campaign by National Bail Out seeking to raise awareness about the human and financial costs of money bail and emphasize its impact on Black mothers and caregivers. This year, we’re supporting our partner Michigan Liberation in their goal of raising $60,000 to help free Black mamas throughout Michigan. And as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout jails and prisons in the state, the need to protect and save the lives of Black mothers is more critical now than ever. To raise awareness about the harsh reality facing incarcerated Black mothers, Advancement Project…

Read More
Advancement Project National Office Statement: The Killing of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, by Armed white Men in Georgia

Georgia resident, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, was killed by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael in February. The nation learned of the killing this week by way of unearthed video footage two months later. The McMichaels have yet to be arrested for the egregious incident and have said they thought Arbery, who was jogging, was thought to be a burglar. In response, Advancement Project National Office offers the following statement.

Read More
Civil Rights Organizations Sue Wayne County Jail for Immediate Release of Vulnerable People Ahead of Deadly COVID-19 Spread

MEDIA CONTACTS Zerline Hughes Spruill, 202-487-0967, [email protected] Joshua Garner, 240-326-3874, [email protected]   Advocates warn outbreak is imminent inside county jail Wayne County, MI—Today, several civil rights and racial justice groups filed a federal lawsuit calling for the release of people inside Wayne County Jail, arguing that county officials are risking the lives of everyone inside and the community at large because of their failure to respond to the threat of COVID-19. Naming Wayne County, Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes, Chief of Jails and Court Operations Robert Dunlap, and Deputy Chief of Jail Operations James E. Davis, the…

Read More
Federal Judge Orders Miami Jail To Follow CDC Guidelines Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Media Contacts: Maya Boddie, [email protected] Amber English Coleman, [email protected] Takara Robinson, [email protected]     Local and national civil rights organizations win order to ensure the health and safety of people confined in Metro West Detention Center’s jail cells MIAMI, FL – In federal court on April 29, Advancement Project National Office, Community Justice Project, Inc., Civil Rights Corps, GST LLP, DLA Piper and Dream Defenders, won an order for Miami’s Metro West Detention Center to follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Health Guidelines for the next 45 days.

Read More
Advancement Project Wins Temporary Restraining Order to Protect the Health of People in Oakland County Jail Ahead of COVID-19 Outbreak

Media Contacts: Joshua Garner, 240-326-3874, [email protected]   Jail officials have 10 days to take steps to protect the health of people inside the facility Oakland County, MI – On April 17, a federal court granted a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit filed by a group of civil rights and racial justice organizations requiring the Oakland County Jail to follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines to protect the health of people locked inside and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted the win in favor…

Read More
Local and National Civil Rights Organizations Win Temporary Restraining Order to Protect the Health of People in Miami Jail Ahead of COVID-19 Outbreak

Media Contacts: Maya Boddie, 757-788-9182, [email protected] Joshua Garner, 240-326-3874, [email protected]   At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most dangerous places to be is in jail MIAMI, FL – In federal court on April 7, Advancement Project National Office, Community Justice Project, Inc., Civil Rights Corps, GST LLP, and Dream Defenders, won a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) requiring  Metro West Detention Center to follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines to protect the health of people locked inside and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Metro West is required to provide basic…

Read More