The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas petition to secure release for four petitioners and a class of medically vulnerable people incarcerated at the Sullivan County Jail who face a significant risk of severe illness or death from the coronavirus. The Sullivan County Jail is currently subject to a severe outbreak of the novel coronavirus that is spreading unabated.
All four named petitioners are in jail and have pre-existing conditions that leave them especially at-risk for severe complications from the virus. To date, the jail has taken few measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. Beginning early in the pandemic, officials suspended visits from friends and family, limited visits from counsel, and handed out masks without requiring anyone to wear them. In the ensuing weeks, corrections staff often went without wearing masks and lax staffing and housing policies were left in place.
No policies have been implemented to identify and protect vulnerable people in the jail from illness or death from COVID-19, and guards have been allowed to rotate between guarding COVID-negative and COVID-positive people.
The lawsuit seeks release for the petitioners as well as a broader putative class of high-risk people with medical conditions outlined by the CDC and New York State Department of Health.