More than 700 people, including several staff members, have tested positive for COVID-19 on Terminal Island in Los Angeles. At least nine have died.

This crisis need never to have reached such horrific proportions. Through a series of unconscionable delays, blunders, and failures to follow official guidelines, the situation grew unimaginably worse. And still, prison officials refuse to take adequate remedial actions, including those approved by the U.S. Congress and Attorney General’s office.

Prison officials’ deliberate indifference has endangered the lives of the people imprisoned in Terminal Island, including those who have high risk health conditions. 

The only true remedy is to reduce the prison populations to allow for adequate social distancing and sufficient access to medical care during the pandemic. That’s impossible under current conditions in these crowded low- and medium-security facilities where much of daily life — including meals and lining up for medical care — is communal, and bunk beds are only three-to-four feet apart. Taking measures on behalf of people incarcerated on Terminal Island is especially critical because the low-security prison is specifically for those with medical and mental health conditions.

This lawsuit asks the court to direct the Terminal Island prison to decarcerate during the pandemic people who have vulnerable medical conditions that could lead to serious illness or death from COVID-19 infections. Exceptions would be individuals who pose serious flight risks or danger to others.

For those who remain, the lawsuit asks that the prisons provide adequate spacing for six feet or more of social distancing. It also asks that people receive, without charge, individual supplies of hand soap and paper towels, and access to hand sanitizer, daily showers, and daily clean laundry, plus other measures.

The class action lawsuits were filed on behalf of several named plaintiffs, including:

  • Lance Wilson, 35, who has hypertension and asthma. On May 6, he tested positive for COVID-19 and suffers from body chills, night sweats, and migraines, but has not been allowed access to a home confinement application.
  • Maurice Smith, 50, who has hypertension and asthma, and is pre-diabetic. When COVID-19 broke out at the prison he was transferred to a space in a vermin-infested warehouse with no heating, potable water, or hot water for showers to keep himself clean.

Do you have information to share about a loved one held at a BOP facility at Terminal Island or Lompoc? Please fill out our questionnaire.

Case Developments

August 24, 2020
The court-appointed expert, Dr. Michael Rowe, conducted a site visit to FCI Terminal Island and reviewed extensive records, including medical records of inmates, and prepared a report on the conditions and the BOP’s handling of COVID-19 at the facility. Read Dr. Rowe’s report.

July 14, 2020
The Court ultimately did not order a process for placing more prisoners on home confinement or accelerating compassionate release. It did, however, make a preliminary finding that serious constitutional violations were occurring and ordered that an expert conduct a site visit to inspect the alleged constitutional violations. The appointed expert is Dr. Michael Rowe, and the site visit is to occur on or before August 3, 2020. Read the order.

June 10, 2020
The court issued an Order Denying Plaintiffs’ Application for a Temporary Restraining Order. Read the order.

May 16, 2020
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, the Prison Law Office, and the law firm Bird Marella filed this class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of people incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institution on Terminal Island. Read the complaint here.


Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C.; Prison Law Office; ACLU Foundation of Southern California

Date filed

May 16, 2020


United States District Court Central District of California, Western Division



Case number