Prince George’s county is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Maryland. The majority-Black county has the most confirmed cases and the most confirmed deaths in the entire state. Not surprisingly, the outbreak has made its way into the county jail.
But the county jail has ignored nearly all the CDC-issued guidance for jails & prisons to control the spread of the virus.
People detained in the jail—the majority of whom are held pretrial and are presumptively innocent— have received little to no information about the virus from the jail. They also have little access to soap: those who can afford it can only buy one bar per week. Those who cannot afford it trade food for soap. Liquid soap, which should be provided at no cost per CDC guidelines, is not available at all. A universal lockdown policy adopted by the jail guidelines leaves people trapped in cells for 23 hours a day with others who may be sick.
Even worse, the jail is keeping people who are entitled to release. People who have paid their bond, for example, are being kept in jail if they test positive, for as long as the jail deems necessary.
We filed an emergency federal class-action lawsuit against the Director of the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections. We’re asking the court to order the immediate release of medically vulnerable people in the jail, and that conditions in the jail meet CDC guidelines.