LITTLE ROCK - Today, an amended complaint was filed against Arkansas officials regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in the state’s correctional facilities, which disproportionately incarcerate Black individuals. The number of incarcerated people infected with COVID-19 has increased over 400% since the initial complaint was filed on April 21, 2020, with viral outbreaks now in multiple facilities.
The amended complaint provides further details on the COVID-19 outbreak in Cummins Unit, a state prison, as well as several other facilities. It also adds named plaintiffs who are incarcerated in additional facilities. Moreover, the amended complaint names Nathaniel Smith, Director and State Health Officer for the Arkansas Department of Health, and Wellpath, a private health care provider contracted to provide medical services in state’s correctional facilities, as defendants, in addition to existing defendants Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Corrections (DOC) officials.
The following individuals issued statements:
Jin Hee Lee, LDF’s Senior Deputy Director of Litigation:
“Our clients’ concerns about COVID-19 in Arkansas state correctional facilities have been confirmed by the viral outbreaks in multiple facilities across Arkansas since this lawsuit was filed. The additional facts in the amended complaint further demonstrate the human rights crisis underway, and the desperate need for court intervention to protect the health and safety of all those at risk from state officials’ gross incompetence.”
Tom Masseau, Disability Rights Arkansas’ Executive Director:
“Instead of allocating resources to protect the population and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, DOC prefers to use its resources to retaliate against those seeking protection from the virus. DRA will continue to fight for all individuals to have access to necessary health and safety measures during this deadly pandemic. Any less is not only a violation of civil rights but a failure of basic humanity.”
Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas’ Legal Director and Interim Executive Director:
“DOC and the state’s responses to this deadly virus have been to use the same failed strategies. Lives are at stake and we will continue to work to protect them.”
Read the April 21 press release announcing the original filing.