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Wisconsin Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit To Release Inmates To Prevent Spread Of COVID-19 In Prisons

ACLU Sued To Release Older Inmates And Those With Pre-Existing Health Conditions

Housing unit in the west section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville
This June 1, 2018, photo shows a housing unit in the west section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville, Pa. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is issuing an executive order Friday, April 10, 2020, to authorize the early release of up to 1,800 inmates from Pennsylvania state prisons in an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Jacqueline Larma/AP Photo

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit seeking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within prisons by releasing prisoners.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on April 10. It argued that older people and people with pre-existing health conditions should get priority for release, and releasing them would reduce prison populations and allow for more social distancing within prisons. Similar proposals have reportedly been adopted in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

On Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the lawsuit on the grounds that steps are already being taken to keep prisoners healthy.

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“These measures include, but are not limited to, following CDC guidelines for management of COVID-19 in correctional facilities,” the court stated in its order.

According to Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) data, 13 adult DOC inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday. Six tests are pending, and 99 have come back negative.

Some Wisconsin sheriffs’ offices are purposely reducing the inmate population in their county jails to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.