Oliver Law Group Obtains Class Certification in Covid-19 Prison Conditions Case

On June 15, 2021, Judge Mark Goldsmith of the Eastern District of Michigan certified a class of prisoners seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to address the woeful response of the Michigan Department of Corrections in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan. Michigan’s prison system has had much higher rates of COVID-19 infections than the general populace and Parnall has had some of the worst infection rates among Michigan’s prisons. Plaintiffs’ allegations included the lack of adequate soap and water for washing and the prison’s failure to ensure that corrections officers complied with relevant CDC guidance, both of which contributed to the COVID-19 outbreaks at Parnall.

In certifying the class, the Court held that “‘a remedy for unsafe conditions need not await a tragic event.’” The treatment of dangerous communicable diseases is not always effective, so it is imperative that steps are taken to prevent infection in the first place. The Oliver Law Group believes that this class certification is an important step in ensuring that inmates in Michigan’s prisons are adequately protected from the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as future pandemics. At the end of the day, when the State decides to incarcerate people, it assumes a responsibility for their safety and wellbeing. Requiring the Michigan Department of Corrections to implement reasonable responses to COVID-19 is just one small step in ensuring the humane treatment of persons incarcerated in Michigan as required by the Michigan and Federal Constitutions.

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