ACLU sues Minnesota for failing to protect inmates from COVID-19

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is suing the state, alleging it failed to protect state prison inmates from COVID-19. 

The ACLU filed the class action lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell in Ramsey County District Court Thursday. The ACLU is accusing the DOC of violating its legal obligation to protect the people in its custody from COVID-19, according to a news release. 

The lawsuit alleges the DOC has failed to put measures in place to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19. The allegations include an almost complete lack of social distancing throughout the prison system, staff not wearing masks and mocking those who did and people being denied COVID-19 testing or access to a doctor while showing symptoms. 

The ACLU sued the DOC earlier this year over its handling of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Minnesota State Correctional Facility in Moose Lake, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the prison sufficiently contained the coronavirus. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, 937 inmates in the state prison system have tested positive for COVID-19 and two have died, according to a DOC spokesperson. There have been 247 positive tests among correctional staff.