A group of inmates have brought a federal lawsuit against Dallas County over the county’s handling of COVID-19 in the jail. The lawsuit demands immediate release for medically high-risk inmates as well as proper sanitary and social distancing protocols to be followed in the jail. The lawsuit is ongoing with hearings yesterday and again today in front of federal district Judge Ada Brown. Even Dallas County’s own County Judge Clay Jenkins has admitted to concerns about the spacing of inmates.
Testimony at the hearing yesterday was pretty shocking. A former inmate testified that during his time in the county jail in March 2020 his pod consisted of 50 men (making it impossible to socially distance properly). He told a story of a man who got visibly sick and threw up. The man had been requesting medical treatment for his fever and other COVID-19 symptoms but wasn’t getting it. The inmates took it upon themselves to do whatever they could to help the man which was give him a bottom bunk so at the very least he wouldn’t fall out of bed and harm himself further. Finally the man was taken to the infirmary by wheelchair. Cynical onlookers might ignore the inmate’s testimony thinking he’s lying or exaggerating (although any criminal defense attorney who’s been inside the jail can attest hearing and seeing similar things). A county detention services officer, however, cannot be so easily ignored. A jailer also testified and said that he was told by a lieutenant that jailers were not to wear personal pertection equipment like masks because it “might spook the inmates.” He told of disorganization and incompetentce – of not being told which pods were quarantined due to COVID-19, of both himself and a nurse unknowingly going into and interacting with quarantined inmates without PPE (masks, gloves) and therefore becoming exposed themselves.
This is a horror show. The testimony continues today. A ruling is expected soon, possibly as early as the close of testimony.