Oakland County Jail details efforts to address COVID-19

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

An attorney for Oakland County Jail officials filed papers Wednesday detailing how the correctional facility has attempted to control the COVID-19 virus among inmates, responding to a federal suit alleging officials have failed to adequately protect prisoners.

Jail officials have been sued by six inmates who claim that not even the basic measures recommended by health experts have been exercised in the facility.

The federal class-action lawsuit, filed by several civil rights and racial justice groups, seeks an injunction against Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Corrections Commander Curtis Childs and the county jail over concerns that prisoners are being unnecessarily exposed to the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker issued a temporary restraining order last month against jail officials based on the suit's allegations, which were disputed during 12 hours of testimony last week.

"The lawsuit is based on affidavits by inmates who want out of the jail and will say anything," said Steven M. Potter, attorney for the jail. "Our filing is based on facts."

Contrary to allegations that the jail has ignored COVID-19, officials argue that inmates and staff have been instructed and regularly reminded of its dangers.

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker

Every inmate had been tested for the virus, according to court records, excepting 186 inmates who refused tests. Three inmates tested positive, according to jail officials. Staff was also tested for the virus. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths and there are 10 confirmed cases among the population of more than 650 inmates.

Symptomatic inmates, or those who have had contact with others with symptoms, have their vital signs checked three times a day, including temperatures.

  • Potter's seven-page response, filed Wednesday with Parker, said regular meetings have been held since March inside the jail over COVID-19, including. He wrote that actions taken include:
  • A memo advising cleaning measures
  • Stopped visitations
  • Initiated new arrest procedures
  • A memo to inmates advising of risks and precautions
  • Quarantining new arrivals for 14 days in two-person cells
  • Quarantining inmate with symptoms
  • Screening of all staff
  • Providing disinfectant to inmates
  • Distribution of masks

Cary McGehee, a Royal Oak attorney for one of the inmates, said prisoners are housed in dangerous proximity to one another. The lawsuit described the situation as a “ticking time bomb” because of perceived health hazards that could spread the highly contagious disease.

The lawsuit says prisoners are suffering “unconstitutional conditions” of unusual punishment and loss of due process as a result of the above and that an outbreak of the virus is imminent.


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