The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin filed suit in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday, seeking the release of the elderly and vulnerable from state prisons to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two incarcerated individuals with pre-existing conditions, state criminal defense lawyers and Disability Rights Wisconsin. The ACLU asks the court to order Governor Tony Evers to reduce the overcrowded prison population, starting with the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, so that the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak is reduced.
Chris Ott, the executive director of ACLU of Wisconsin, has said:
The very modest steps taken so far by state officials are simply not enough to prevent an outbreak that would strain our hospital system, endanger public health, and claim thousands of lives. State officials have the power to avert this catastrophe–and they have to act now.
Currently, the Department of Corrections holds almost 23,000 adults in facilities that were designed to hold 17,815. Wisconsin reduced the state’s prison population by 1.3 percent, but this still leaves the prisons overcrowded, making social distancing and other preventative measures impossible.
The ACLU also asks that the Supreme Court ask circuit courts to take “all necessary action” to reduce the number of people being held in jail while they await trial.
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