The Cummins Unit has 670 inmates and 10 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of cases in the prison has been exponentially growing over the past week with the first case being identified on April 13.
An emergency complaint has been filed today by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Squire Patton Boggs law firm, Disability Rights Arkansas, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and attorney Laura Fernandez on behalf of the Arkansas state prisoners against numerous state officials, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
The prisoners are alleging that Arkansas officials have failed to adhere to the established Centers for Disease and Prevention guidelines to protect people against COVID-19. Currently, inmates make up approximately one-third of the total cases in Arkansas.
With confined spaces, physical contact is difficult to limit in a prison. The complaint claims that “some plaintiffs continue to physically interact with well over a hundred people each day, often without PPE or ready access to hygiene products.” Furthermore, many prisoners, including the plaintiffs, have underlying health conditions that put them at a greater risk.
According to the complaint, state officials have failed to implement adequate measures to protect those incarcerated from the spread of COVID-19 including the lack of PPE, minimum social distancing and little medical attention.
Hutchinson was handed the complaint moments before his daily COVID-19 update at 1:30 this afternoon.
“I was handed that lawsuit moments before I came in here, so I haven’t read it in detail. I did scan through the back where they asked for relief and one of them was that we test inmates whenever we need it,” he said.
“Well, we’ve gone beyond that with our inmate population at Cummins because Dr. Smith and his team have been there and have provided more testing for the inmates in Cummins than to the general population.”
Hutchinson said he is confident in Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith and his team who have gone to “extraordinary lengths” to make sure inmates have health protection measures in place.
READ MORE: Hutchinson Orders Review of Prisoners for Possible Compassionate Release
Image courtesy of Arkansas Department of Corrections