Colorado officials reach settlement over inmates at risk for severe COVID-19 infections

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado prison officials have reached a tentative agreement in a lawsuit over its treatment of prisoners who are at risk of developing severe symptoms if infected with the coronavirus, court records say.

The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sought a lawsuit in May against the Colorado Department of Corrections, who the ACLU says enacted inadequate measures to protect vulnerable inmates.

The ACLU classified those who have underlying conditions known to cause coronavirus complications as vulnerable, including those with bronchitis, hypertension, asthma and pulmonary disease. Inmates older than 55 are also cited as more vulnerable.

The ACLU of Colorado said in motions filed last week that the parties have reached an agreement. The details of the settlement were not made public. The local chapter of the ACLU had previously asked prison officials to prioritize vulnerable inmates for possible release and to keep vulnerable inmates distanced when release is not possible.

The lawsuit was filed in late May, as cases of coronavirus were rising substantially in the state’s correctional facilities. Hundreds of confirmed cases were tabulated each week and inmates or staffers at correctional facilities represented one in every five confirmed cases in Colorado at the time.

The ACLU had also previously requested a court order for widespread coronavirus testing of all prisoners and staff. Since then, prisons and jails have increased testing, The Gazette reported.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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