More than 900 people incarcerated in Lompoc have tested positive for the virus — that’s more than 65% of positive tests in all of Santa Barbara County where the prison facilities are located.
While the rest of California took extraordinary measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Bureau of Prisons failed to take preventive measures as basic as isolating sick prisoners, allowing social distancing, or providing enough soap. Their deliberate indifference to the risk of disease violates the Constitution and puts both those in prison and the surrounding community at risk.
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.
This class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of several named plaintiffs, including:
- Yonnedil Torres, 24, who suffers from chronic asthma. During the COVID-19 outbreak in the prison he developed fever, diarrhea, and body aches, but his requests for medical assistance were ignored for five days. Only after he collapsed in his cell with acute respiratory shock was he tested and found to be positive. Torres was put into a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator, but has severe lung damage.
- Vincent Reed, 53, who has hypertension. After developing symptoms of COVID-19 and testing positive, he was placed in solitary confinement and then transferred to an unsanitary housing unit with others who were infected. He languished there without treatment, then was put back into the general population without being re-tested.
We ask the court to direct the Lompoc prisons 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.