FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 21, 2020

CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, mmccormick@aclukansas.org

OVERLAND PARK, KS - In a promising development, Leavenworth District Court Judge David King issued an opinion Tuesday that a Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by the ACLU of Kansas seeking the release of vulnerable inmates jeopardized by the COVID-19 pandemic be issued.

The ACLU of Kansas has argued current conditions in state Department of Corrections facilities constitute a violation of Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Inmates over 50 with underlying conditions such as hep-C, diabetes and asthma cannot practice social distancing or other preventative measures as urged by the CDC.

"We think this is a very positive development," said ACLU of Kansas Legal Director Lauren Bonds.

Judge King's writ does not resolve the lawsuit, however.

The State has until Friday to file its response.

The ACLU filed the case, James Hadley, et al. vs Jeffery Zmuda last week on behalf of five men and three women. It also asks the high court to force correctional facilities to take immediate actions to mitigate the risk of infection.

The eight prisoners identified in the ACLU petition sleep and eat in confined areas and have underlying health problems that make them vulnerable to serious illness if infected with COVID-19. They range in age from 21 to 57 and are housed at Lansing, Ellsworth and Topeka correctional facilities.

At the Lansing prison, 40 inmates and 47 staff members have tested positive for the virus.

ACLU also accuses Lansing staff of threatening residents with solitary confinement and withholding shower access if they report symptoms of COVID-19.

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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.