ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates  title=
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates
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U.S. Federal Penitentiary at Lompoc (courtesy photo)

By edhat staff

A class-action lawsuit has been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of inmates at the Federal Penitentiary in Lompoc for alleged mistreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ACLU announced the lawsuit on Sunday, stating it has filed two class-action lawsuits in coordination with the Prison Law Office, and the law firm Bird Marella in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of people incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institutions in Lompoc and on Terminal Island in Los Angeles County.

More than 900 inmates in Lompoc have tested positive for COVID-19, that's more than 65% of the total positive test results within Santa Barbara County.

The lawsuit states a series of delays, blunders, and failures to follow guidelines made the situation worse as prison officials refuse to take remedial actions. This lawsuit is based on the violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects against "cruel and unusual punishments."

“Prison officials’ deliberate indifference has endangered the lives of the thousands of people imprisoned in Terminal Island and Lompoc, including those who have high risk health conditions,” said Naeun Rim, a principal with Bird Marella. “Congress gave prisons broad authority to release low risk offenders into home confinement so that it could reduce overcrowding and save lives. But officials failed to use that authority. We will hold them accountable in court.”

The lawsuit argues the prison population should be reduced to allow adequate social distancing and sufficient access to medical care, instead of crowded facilities with communal living. ACLU acknowledged that reducing prison populations is one of the aims of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) signed into law on March 27. This gives broad discretion to allow transfers to home confinement and Attorney General William Barr specifically urged the transfer of people with medical conditions especially vulnerable to the virus.

“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,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “Their deliberate indifference to the risk of disease violates the constitution, and puts both those in prison and the surrounding community at risk.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four inmates, two housed in the Lompoc facility, Yonnedil Torres, 24, and Vincent Reed, 53. 

Torres suffers from chronic asthma and during the outbreak, 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.

Reed 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.

“The Constitution requires that prison officials provide a safe environment for people in their custody,” states Donald Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office. “Not only are these two prisons extremely dangerous, but they confine people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Both lawsuits ask the court to direct the Lompoc and Terminal Island 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.

The full lawsuit is available to view here.


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a-1589835914 May 18, 2020 02:05 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

I wonder if all those clamoring about their "Constitutional rights" being deprived by Newsom are going to support this fight for an actual violation of Constitutional liberties?

Chip of SB May 18, 2020 02:20 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

The governor should exert some real leadership and close all courts statewide. We would all be much safer if the appropriate qualified authorities had the power to imprison people as needed until the virus crisis is over. The constitution does not give people the right to sue our lawful government. Public safety trumps all other concerns.

a-1589837265 May 18, 2020 02:27 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

The constitution is not at all intended to contain ALL rights of the people. Regardless of pandemic, it is important people retain their rights to object against what the government is doing. It is a slippery slope otherwise - 99% of governments have committed shady and terrible acts at some time or another, sadly all those in power MUST be checked constantly. And to clarify, I am not one of the wackos advocating for ending the shutdown and refusing to wear a mask.

a-1589837445 May 18, 2020 02:30 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

CHIP - The constitution very much, 100%, absolutely, without a doubt, allows people to sue governmental officials such as is being done here. What version have you been reading?

Chip of SB May 18, 2020 03:03 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

Just because the governor has allowed people to file lawsuits for a long time does not mean he is obligated to continue doing so. If people are a threat to public health, the governor needs to take swift action to protect the public. If the courts get in the way of the governor's ability to keep us safe, then the governor should close the courts. We need decisive leadership right now to navigate the crisis.

a-1589840003 May 18, 2020 03:13 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

CHIP - what? It's not up to the governor to decide who is able to bring suit against the government, it's up to the courts. How is this even the Newsom's issue? This is a suit against the warden of the prison and the head of the BOP. Newsom has no say in this. Wait, are you actually supporting the lawsuit, in other words, supporting the fight to protect their constitutional rights?

PitMix May 18, 2020 03:16 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

I think most courts are closed. I haven't heard of any lawsuits proceeding at this time. Must be really bad for those people that are pursuing cases to get compensation for an injury or malpractice.

sacjon May 18, 2020 02:47 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

COAST - the ACLU is fighting to protect the very same Constitution that you have been crying and wailing about for 2 months. Or, is it that only YOUR constitutional rights are valid?

ChemicalSuperFreak May 18, 2020 04:42 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

SAC: Some people think that the incarcerated have forfeited their Constitutional Rights because of the actions that landed them in prison, crimes that in many cases that violated the Constitutional Rights of their victims. I tend to agree. Victimless crimes, such as simple possession, are a different story. But if you're a rapist or murderer, I think you've lost your Rights.

sacjon May 18, 2020 04:50 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

CHEM - I totally get that, and this case is actually asking for temporary release ONLY for non violent offenders, so rapists and murders aren't going to be releases. BUT.... they do have rights, like them or not, under the Constitution. That's the point I'm making, and by the number of anonymous dislikes on my comments, it appears to be working. Cons (convicts and conservatives) HATE it when the Constitutional rights they think are being trampled, are not, but other rights (that don't apply to them) ARE being put in jeopardy.

a-1589910941 May 19, 2020 10:55 AM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

Coastwatch's comparison of ACLU evidences an emotional age of 9 and an intellectual age of 4. What is the point exactly? There is none except he apparently doesn't like the ACLU for reasons he can state due to lack of capacity. This sort of "argument" is pretty scary for the nation.

sacjon May 19, 2020 11:07 AM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

10:55 - Yup! Coast does these drive-by troll comments, where he says something absurd, then refuses to answer any questions as to his comment. It's clear there is no rationale backing up these statements, much like most of the right's insults and comments. Look at any Facebook thread and the cons plaster memes as "responses" instead of addressing direct questions as to their position.

sacjon May 18, 2020 06:35 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

Coast - so, you're just going to ignore my question then? typical. Try being a grown up and answering the question - are your perceived "rights" more important than others' rights? You have been ranting and raving about how the government is infringing on your "constitutional rights" since day 1, now you throw shade on those trying to fight a legitimate infringement on their rights? So which is it?

mattyboy May 18, 2020 09:35 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

The ACLU is a cancer on the good people of this country.

Yonnedil Carror Torres...prisoner 41928069

Yonnedil Carror-Torres was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his participation in the carjacking and sexual assault of a female victim, and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

F that guy.

jak May 19, 2020 08:19 AM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

Or to paraphrase a famous tv cop, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”. Yes, there are a lot of relatively low level offenders at Lompoc prison but still, Every. Single. One. Is proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be an offender and this cat in particular sounds like a real piece of work. The ACLU might have done better to pick up a low level tax-evader or someone caught transporting an insignificant amount of pot across state lines as a named offender.

x01660 May 19, 2020 10:02 AM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

Everyone keeps going on about their rights; what about your responsibility? If you violate the law (legal responsibility), you are deprived of your rights (legal rights, i.e. freedom).

The same applies to social rights and responsibility. If you want your social rights (open nail salons and beaches), then you need to engage in your social responsibility (social distancing, minimizing non essential travel, etc). And just like when you can't follow the rules, you get locked up, when you can't be responsible not only to yourself, but (and most importantly) other around you, then Big Brother has to step in and enforce the rules.
This problem I mentioned above is a critical issue with US culture. We aren't taught civics anymore (if we're even taught anything worthwhile to begin with, but the efficacy of our education system is a conversation for another time), and its all about "me me me"; our "president" is a prime example of this. I wasn't alive, but I've watched the video where Kennedy said "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," That sense of pride and can-do attitude and responsibility for your country is lost. And this medical crisis has only exacerbated the dilemma.

Its not about YOU (or just your family). ITs about all of us. The sooner we can (collectively, as a culture) stop being so standoffish and engaging in oneupmanship, the sooner we can get to advancing. Not only as a nation, but as a species.

SantaBarbaraObserver May 19, 2020 10:14 AM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

Good post. Unfortunately, its over the head of the very crowd that needs to understand these things. These FreeDumb people are walking Dunning-Kruger studies. And the worst part is they're actually proud of it! Life is truly stranger than fiction isnt it? The strange irony of this mask thing is that being a patriot means sacrificing for the greater good. To do things in order to help your fellow Americans. How sad that these poor souls have been manipulated and weaponized to the the dirty work of the least patriotic POTUS in our history...

a-1589987004 May 20, 2020 08:03 AM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

And now, from the Medical Experts: "The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, is cautioning against the widespread use of technologies intended to detect fevers in people from a distance. The organization said in a report Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic has flooded the market with these devices, many of which produce unreliable readings.

The ACLU also said temperature screenings raise privacy issues.

"We don't want to wake up to a post-COVID world where companies and government agencies think they can gather temperature or other health data about people whenever they want," it said.

Tee Gee May 20, 2020 05:42 PM
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Lompoc Prison Inmates

There are 1.5 million members of the ACLU. If they are truly concerned about the rights of these incarcerated men and women- people who have been tried and found guilty of crimes, some heinous, twisted, and diabolical- if just a few of these 1.5 million champions of justice would take a prisoner into their homes and guarantee the safety of both criminal and society, I'd say an equitable solution has been reached.

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