As COVID-19 continues to spread within Wyoming communities, the ACLU of Wyoming is urging state officials to heed public health experts’ advice and immediately develop an evidence-based, proactive plan for the prevention and management of COVID-19 in Wyoming’s jails, detention centers, prisons, ICE facilities and detainee transportation.
People who are incarcerated are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses like the coronavirus. Once a contagious illness enters, conditions in correctional facilities are highly conducive to it spreading. People in prisons and jails live in close proximity to each other. Many are housed in large dormitories, sharing the same space. Even where people are housed in cells, the ventilation is often inadequate. People who are incarcerated are also often denied adequate soap and cleaning supplies, making infection control nearly impossible.
The ACLU of Wyoming issued a letter to Gov. Mark Gordon and members of his staff, the Wyoming Department of Corrections, all county jails, the state penitentiary, the Wyoming Honor Conservation Camp and Wyoming Boot Camp, the Wyoming Honor Farm, the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution and the Wyoming Women’s Center.
The ACLU is asking that officials respond to recommendations put forth by public health experts, specifically calling for officials in the state’s criminal legal system to work collaboratively with the Wyoming Department of Health to address screening and testing of people in custody, housing of people exposed to the coronavirus, access to treatment and more. Additionally, the ACLU of Wyoming is calling for Immigration Customs Enforcement to cease community sweeps, raids and transportation of detainees at the risk of spreading COVID-19.
“Public health experts recognize that there is a heightened risk of infection for people who are involved in the criminal legal system,” said Antonio Serrano, the ACLU of Wyoming’s organizer. “From policing, prosecution and pretrial hearings to sentencing, confinement, and release, every aspect of the system must come under intense scrutiny for how it responds to this national public health crisis.”
Public health experts and groups such as Dr. Gregg Gonsalves, doctors working in New York City Hospitals, Dr. Marc Stern, Dr. Oluwadamilola T. Oladeru and Adam Beckman, Dr. Anne Spaulding, Homer Venters, and Josiah Rich have all clearly stated that preventing the harm inflicted by SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 can become immensely more difficult for people involved in the criminal legal system. By following the recommendations outlined in the ACLU’s letter, state and local officials can create a culture in which transparency, safety, and the health of all people is the paramount concern.
The ACLU of Wyoming’s letter to state and local officials is below.
About the ACLU of Wyoming
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of Wyoming is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and South Dakota. The team in Wyoming is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBT communities. The ACLU of Wyoming carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of Wyoming.