The ACLU of Arkansas said today that federal Judge Kristine Baker had denied another attempt to investigate a violation of rights of Department of Corrections inmates in failure to provide sufficient COVID-19 prevention measures.
The latest motion the judge denied was a dismissal request by Wellpath, contracted to provide medical services in prison facilities. The judge denied a request for dismissal by the Corrections Department in March.
17 prisoners sued over health practices. The ACLU said the ruling means it now will be allowed to have an expert inspect prison units for law violations.
A statement from Gary Sullivan, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas:
“We are pleased that Judge Baker has once again decisively ruled that the prisoner plaintiffs have valid claims to pursue against the DOC and its medical provider. The State and the medical provider attempted unsuccessfully to prevent incarcerated individuals from moving forward with their claims that the DOC is violating their basic rights to a safe environment with proper COVID-19 prevention procedures in place. This is especially concerning for those suffering from disabilities.”
Incidentally, Pulaski County today filed a motion for summary judgment for its part in the challenge of the state law prohibiting mask mandates at schools and public institutions, a law that exempted the state Corrections Department, Youth Services and the Department of Human Services. One of the county’s three arguments on the unconstitutionality of the law is that the exemptions violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution by creating special classifications of people or departments to which the law does not apply, without rational basis. Though this rule might have cleared a path for rare better treatment of inmates than others, the ACLU lawsuit suggests that hasn’t happened.