A new federal suit has been filed against the office of the Shelby County Sheriff seeking emergency action on behalf of inmates currently infected or under threat of “severe injury or death” as a result of
the COVID-19 outbreak.
Filed Wednesday afternoon jointly by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee; the American Civil Liberties Union; Just City; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and attorneys Brice Timmons and Steve Mulroy, the suit is a federal class action lawsuit.
As a press release issued by the plaintiffs puts it, the suit “asks for identification of medically vulnerable individuals held at the jail and the immediate release of vulnerable people, most immediately those who are detained solely on the basis of their inability to satisfy a financial condition of pretrial release, or solely on the basis of a technical violation of probation or parole unless the county demonstrates that an individual poses a flight or safety risk.”
The statement notes that, “as of April 30, 192 people at the jail had tested positive for COVID-19, and one jail employee had died.” It further points out that “[s]tatewide, the greatest number of deaths from the virus have occurred in Shelby County” and that, according to the latest reports, “86 percent of inmates at the Shelby County Jail were there pretrial.”
The lawsuit alleges that the sheriff’s office is violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The plaintiffs warn that “an outbreak at the jail would spread widely in the community, draining the Memphis area of limited resources to fight the pandemic.”