A lawsuit that seeks the release of prisoners incarcerated at Oakdale Federal Prison was filed on April 6. The American Civil Liberties Union announced that it sued Oakdale Federal Prison Warden J.P. Young as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). 

According to the ACLU, their legal team seeks to have inmates at the prison who are susceptible to the virus released. Age and underlying medical conditions are the major factors of the lawsuit.

Five people have died from COVID-19 related complications. The ACLU holds the belief that the Department of Justice has acted too slowly in response to the growing crisis. 

“Public health experts have repeatedly warned that COVID-19 will spread rapidly once it enters prisons, jails, and detention centers — both within the facilities and in the communities that surround them,” said Somil Trivedi, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “The Department of Justice has finally recognized the tremendous humanitarian and public health crisis that our mass incarceration crisis presents during this pandemic — around the country and especially in Louisiana. We share the department’s goal of stopping COVID-19 in its tracks, but are deeply concerned that relief is coming too slowly. We must act now to avoid the worst-case scenario here.”

Prisons and elderly care facilities were among the first places to see visitation restrictions due to the pandemic. However, The ACLU of Louisiana believes that more needs to be done to protect inmates and correctional officers at Oakdale Federal Prison, as well as residents outside the prison.  The ACLU also expressed that it is their belief that flattening the curve includes flattening the curve within the prison community as well.

“Public health experts are consistent in warning that prisons and jails are extremely dangerous incubators for this disease. Conditions are now deadly — threatening the health of incarcerated people, staff and the surrounding community,” said Alanah Odoms Herbert, executive director at the ACLU of Louisiana. “What we are seeing on the ground does not encourage us that the federal government is acting with the urgency that will be required to protect Louisianans from this pandemic. We will fight to save the lives of our clients, as well as staff at these facilities and their communities.” 

The suit comes after Attorney General William Barr advocated for the expansion of bail opportunities for inmates who pose no flight risk, little threat to the public, and are especially susceptible to COVID-19. Barr has acknowledged the risk that the virus poses to both inmates and personnel.

To view the ACLU’s full petition and press release log on to www.laaclu.org.