May 30, 2020
Latest efforts by attorneys representing the Coleman and Plata classes in on-going issues with CDCR and overcrowding of prisons by forcing CDCR to release more state prisoners in the face of the CoVid pandemic were dashed recently when the Plata US District Court refused a request from the Prison Law Office to order CDCR to begin such releases. The plaintiffs were required to prove CDCR exhibited ‘deliberate indifference’ to the threat of the Covid virus to the prison population. The court found actions taken by CDCR prior to the suit and additional on-going actions by the department did not meet that standard and thus denied such relief via additional prisoner releases, in excess of the roughly 3,500 inmates given early release by CDCR in efforts to provide more space and thus less danger of infection in the prisons. LSA submitted a pro per amicus brief in the District Court case, bringing to the Court’s attention the (then) new rapid result test marketed by Abbott Labs, which promises a 5 minute result, rather than taking a test, submitting the specimen to an outside laboratory and waiting the result. Our amicus brief suggested the court use its authority to direct CDCR to test everyone entering prison grounds, as the virus was only moving in one direction, into the prisons from those on the outside.
While the court declined to consider any amicus briefs, we still feel this is an obvious and more certain preventative measure than those currently being taken by CDCR. As we go to print, CDCR has reported testing over 1,000 prisoners for CoVid 19 virus, with just over 180 positive tests, nearly 300 tests still waiting reporting of results and 1 death so far reported.
This decision marked the second time in two months that attorneys for the Plata and Coleman groups have attempted to convince the courts to intervene in CDCR’s mitigation efforts for the spread of the CoVid virus. Earlier another court ruled it did not have jurisdiction, paving the way to the most recent action and decision.