In its complaint, the ACLU of Pennsylvania said that conditions at York County Prison, Clinton County Correctional Facility, and Pike County Correctional “cannot be seen as sufficient to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 or to prevent its rapid transmission among both detainees and staff.” As many as 60 people are forced to share sinks and showers while others “are packed into open spaces where they literally can touch people sleeping next to them,” the complaint continued. “Plaintiffs’ public health and medical experts attest that the crowded conditions at the three prisons make the most vital preventative measure, social distancing, impossible.”
The lawsuit said that two of the plaintiffs, “and many other detainees, have COVID-19 symptoms, but the prisons refuse to test them. They are neither quarantined nor isolated.” One of those plaintiffs, 21-year-old Rodolfo Agustín Juarez Juarez, is a diabetic “and has had a fever, persistent cough, and trouble breathing for the past week. The facility has told him it cannot test him for COVID-19 because it does not have tests. Mr. Juarez is at a high risk of severe illness or death if he contracts or has contracted COVID-19 because of his serious health conditions.”
ICE’s website claims the agency “is actively working with state and local health partners to determine if any detainee requires additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of the virus.” But we also know ICE lies about everything, pandemic or no pandemic, and the first person confirmed to test positive for coronavirus while in ICE custody said medical staff at the New Jersey facility where he was held failed to use proper medical gear around him. ICE is actively endangering the lives of people. It’s been the courts that have been stepping up, and must keeping doing so until ICE acts.
“Our Constitution and laws apply equally to the most vulnerable among us, particularly when matters of public health are at issue,” the judge continued in his order. “This is true even for those who have lost a measure of their freedom. If we are to remain the civilized society we hold ourselves out to be, it would be heartless and inhumane not to recognize Petitioners’ plight.” In another ruling late last month freeing another 10 people from New Jersey facilities, Judge Analisa Torres said ICE authorities have ”exhibited, and continue to exhibit, deliberate indifference to Petitioners’ medical need.”
"As the number of confirmed cases of people in ICE detention who have tested positive for COVID-19 continues to climb, we are thrilled to see the court take this critical, life-saving step,” said Eunice Cho of the ACLU National Prison Project. “It sends a strong message to ICE field offices around the country: Now is the moment to release people who are at risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19. We will continue to fight in the courts to ensure that they do."