Federal prison authorities must begin transferring medically vulnerable inmates at Lompoc’s prison complex to home confinement to prevent further illness after an outbreak of the coronavirus killed four inmates and infected more than 1,000 others, a U.S. District Court judge ruled. The decision last week by Judge Consuelo Marshall granted a preliminary injunction in a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California that accuses the federal Bureau of Prisons of mishandling the response to the outbreak and two federal lockups in Lompoc of failing to take basic hygiene steps to protect those imprisoned. The two prisons house more than 3,700 low-level and medium security inmates.
Under the order, Bureau of Prisons officials are required to tell the court which inmates are eligible for release as part of a plan to reduce the population. Those eligible could be anyone older than 50, and anyone with underlying health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, serious heart conditions, diabetes, obesity, asthma or cerebrovascular disease.
“The Court’s order is the first step in holding Lompoc prison officials accountable for their total failure to protect the health and safety of prisoners," said Naeun Rim, the lead attorney representing the inmates.
Rim said prison officials admitted that, instead of releasing more non-violent prisoners to home confinement, they moved them from one part of the prison to another and at one point cut off access to showers for nearly two weeks.
She said those actions contributed to the deaths of at least four people.
"The Court’s order," she said, "will result in less prisoners falling ill, reduce the burden on local hospitals, and ultimately make […]