DENVER (KDVR) – American Civil Liberties Union and civil rights attorneys filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday in federal court. They seek an emergency order to ensure Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams complies with COVID-19 public health guidelines, including physical distancing, for all high-risk people being held in the Weld County Jail.
“We have written to Sheriff Reams; we have written to the Chief Judge in Weld County; and we have petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein.
“But the recipients of these pleas did not respond with the actions that were urgently required to prevent the calamity now unfolding in the Weld County Jail, an outbreak with multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19. We are now asking the federal court to order the desperately needed protective measures to save lives.”
The lawsuit says Weld County Sheriff failed to take adequate measures to protect people in jail, correctional staff and the public from COVID-19, resulting in a substantial outbreak in the Weld County Jail.
Weld County has the highest death rate and fourth-highest number of infections of Colorado counties.
Weld County Jail currently houses 574 people, 70% of people being held are pretrial detainees, they have not been convicted of a crime. They cannot afford to pay their bond.
Governor Polis took executive action on March 25 to lower jail populations, stating that, “Reducing the numbers of those arrested or incarcerated is vital to our efforts to limit and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
To comply with public health guidelines, the Sheriff must ensure that people who are incarcerated can maintain at least six-feet of distance at all times.