(Washington, D.C.) – Residents in the Chesapeake Detention Facility (CDF) in downtown Baltimore, will now have safer and humane protections from COVID-19 outbreaks after over a year of CDF and Maryland public officials refusing to enact them, thanks to a settlement negotiated by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and pro bono counsel Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.
The settlement and underlying lawsuit came after an uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak at CDF where more than one-third of the residents tested positive since the beginning of the year, as well as the one-third of staff. CDF consistently housed healthy residents with COVID-positive residents, denied residents access to cleaning supplies to sanitize cells, and made little effort to contact trace to identify and quarantine residents exposed to the virus. CDF also confined residents to their cells for 22 hours per day or more, sometimes without access to running water.
“This settlement is a huge victory that is going to save lives,” said John Fowler, counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “As a society, we have known the steps necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 for over a year now. Finally, the Chesapeake Detention Facility is going to enact those measures. We hope that the Chesapeake Detention Facility will learn from this experience and ensure the health and safety of its residents not only during a pandemic and not only when a federal lawsuit is filed against state officials, but instead provide humane and sanitary living conditions for residents at all times.”
Mr. Fowler continued: “Jail and prison health is public health. Staff and residents come in and out of this facility every day. Anything happening inside this facility affects the Baltimore community. This settlement keeps this facility safer, and it also keeps Baltimore safer.” Mr. Fowler added: “We are grateful to the eight residents who stepped forward and permitted us to file this lawsuit on their behalf. Those eight individuals have undoubtedly saved lives.”
“It was most important to us to obtain meaningful relief as quickly as possible for the residents of the detention facility,” said Daniel Schwartz, Senior Counsel at Bryan, Cave, Leighton, Paisner LLP. “We at BCLP are pleased to share this accomplishment with our pro bono colleagues at the Lawyers’ Committee.”
The lawsuit named Calvin Wilson, in his official capacity as Warden of the CDF, and Robert L. Green, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, as defendants..
Background on the settlement:
- CDF will implement measures to keep residents of CDF safe, including separating positive residents from negative residents, quarantining exposed residents, weekly testing of residents and staff, heightened protections for high-risk residents, and a curb on preemptive lockdown procedures where residents are confined to cells for more than 22 hours a day.
- CDF will offer vaccinations and education about vaccinations to all residents by May 1–a move that keeps residents, staff, and the broader Baltimore community safe, in light of staff’s frequent movement in and out of the facility.
- Counsel for the Plaintiffs will able to monitor the facility’s compliance with the agreement through regular production of records and in-person inspections every month, for 180 days after Maryland declares the end of the state of emergency related to COVID-19.