Coronavirus

Texas Inmates Sue for Access to Hand Sanitizer as Coronavirus Threatens Prisons

The ACLU is also suing Washington, D.C. jails.

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Two Texas inmates have filed a lawsuit to improve conditions in their facility as COVID-19 threatens to tear through America's prisons and jails. 

On Monday, two Texas inmates filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), as well as Executive Director Bryan Collier and Deputy Executive Director Oscar Mendoza, alleging "willful and/or deliberately indifferent and discriminatory conduct in failing to protect inmates housed." Plaintiffs Laddy Curtis Valentine, 69, and Richard Elvin King, 73, are incarcerated at Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas, and both men have chronic illnesses (hypertension and diabetes, respectively) that place them at high risk of death should they become infected.

The two men say Texas inmates are unable to practice social distancing and often come into contact with surfaces where the virus may be present. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released guidelines to help corrections facilities prepare, the lawsuit accuses the TDCJ of only partially adopting CDC guidelines, and only when an inmate is showing symptoms of illness. TDCJ has otherwise failed, the lawsuit alleges, to implement policies that would curb the spread behind bars.

"While TDCJ has implemented policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,
these procedures are woefully inadequate and do not comport with many of the CDC's
recommendations," the suit alleges.

For example, the CDC recommends that corrections facilities consider "relaxing restrictions" on alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, which can be used when soap and water are not readily available.

But King and Valentine claim in their lawsuit that they are not allowed to use alcohol-based sanitizer even when performing the same tasks as staff, and must instead use soap and water even though it is often not available. (TDCJ's new COVID-19 policy does encourage staff to carry hand sanitizer, but King and Valentine say prisoners are still prohibited from having access to it.)

"And, ironically," the suit continues, "TDCJ inmates have been pressed into manufacturing alcohol-based hand sanitizer at the Roach Unit. Thus, TDCJ is forcing inmates to manufacture a necessary preventative measure they are prohibited from using themselves."

The prisoners are asking for unrestricted access to antibacterial hand soap and disposable hand towels, access to hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, and access to bleach-based cleaning agents to disinfect housing areas and common-use surfaces and items.

"TDCJ's failures don't just affect the inmates. Prison health is community health.
An outbreak at the Pack Unit could easily spread to the surrounding communities, and vice versa," the plaintiffs argue.

Prisoners, their families, and advocacy groups around the country are pushing correctional facilities to protect the health of people under their supervision. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, D.C. filed a class-action lawsuit against the D.C. Department of Corrections alleging inadequate sanitation to stop the spread of COVID-19, including failing to provide hand soap or sanitizer.

NEXT: The FDA Is Making It Much, Much Harder for Distilleries To Produce Hand Sanitizer

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  1. Can reason run an article on the suspension and deaths associated with the suspension of elective surgeries?

    1. They would but they are focused on prisoners, strippers, hookers, vapers, illegal border crossers, and other assorted people who need our help.

      1. Hookers, felons, illegal aliens, and journalists are the only people who matter

    2. Theoretically, if the procedures are elective, postponing them shouldn’t cause a rise in deaths. That being said, the suspension is hitting us surgeons hard in the pocketbook. Fortunately, my family isn’t reliant on my income alone, which is effectively zero at the moment.

      1. And more importantly, my wife and I did what all too many couples fail to do: made key financial decisions (particularly the mortgage) based on her income alone. Her earning potential is an order of magnitude lower than mine, but it’s also far more secure. She enjoys a steady salary that isn’t subject to the fluctuations of market cycles.

        1. That’s sound advice for two income families with both couples making good incomes who live in an area with low COL. Not as easy to do when both partners need to work just to afford rent/mortgage. Which is common in many areas now.

          1. We live in New Jersey, not exactly a state known for its low cost of living, and we made these decisions when I was a medical student and thus had no income.

        2. Earning potential far more secure than that of a surgeon?

          Sounds legit.

          1. You’re an attorney. You’re smart enough to know that medicine is subject to the vagaries and vicissitudes of economic cycles like any other industry. Or do you actually think you just scored rhetorical points with your snark?

            1. I think you confused the term ‘vicissitudes of economic cycles’ with the term ‘vicissitudes of government follies’.

  2. THEY’RE JUST GOING TO DRINK IT.

    1. Let them eat cake. As long as it’s vegan, gluten free, organic, and certified fair trade.

  3. Motherfucker! Where are these vip.fortunatefellow.xyz popups coming from? They’ve been hijacking my Reason.com tab for the last half an hour or so. Reason seriously needs to do a better job of screening its ad inventory.

    1. I should amend my statement to read that it’s a redirect, not a popup. Either way, it’s an obnoxious mousetrap that tries to disable the Back button on my browser. Not acceptable.

      1. Try a different browser. Also, clear your internet cache/cookies/TIFs regularly.

        1. Ad blockers also help cut down on that kind of bullshit.

          1. I’m using Safari on macOS Catalina (fresh installation). I was really hoping not to have to install an ad blocker for this browser. Ah, well, such is life.

            1. Duckduckgo, bro

      2. Chrome and adblockplus; the only thing I see beyond the count of blocked ads is the damned “anyclip” video which is unkillable.

  4. “For example, the CDC recommends that corrections facilities consider “relaxing restrictions” on alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, which can be used when soap and water are not readily available.”

    The inmates will definitely turn it into alcohol, and when a big batch of homemade alcohol goes through a cell block, they say it’s always a bar room brawl.

    Alcohol has certain qualities that doesn’t just break down your inhibitions but also breaks down your fear of death. Ancient war tomes (form Greece to China) had sections about keeping your troops just drunk enough to lose their fear of death but not so drunk that they couldn’t maintain a phalanx.

    When you look at suicide rates, too, the presence of alcohol increases the likelihood of a successful suicide attempt dramatically. Alcohol seems to inhibit that subconscious survival instinct that makes so many suicide attempts go astray.

    Everybody knows somebody who thinks they’re seven feet tall and made of steel when they get drunk, and there are a lot more of those guys in prison than there are in the general population outside. You don’t want to be in a cell block when all those guys lose their inhibitions and their fear.

    And they will drink that alcohol. You can fill it with mustard or whatever to try to make it unfit for human consumption, but they’ll get that alcohol somehow. They’re gonna get drunk, all at the same time, and they’re gonna shank the hell out of each other, and they’re gonna shank the guards, too. And I feel sorry for whomever is there when it happens.

    1. For laboratory grade ethanol, the usual denaturant is methanol (wood alcohol), which although tasteless and largely odorless, has the unfortunate effect of causing blindness. Allowing prisoners to blind themselves could make for an interesting dynamic. Methanol is incredibly toxic; not only can a few teaspoons make you go blind, but a few tablespoons can kill you. I can see why the DOC might be hesitant to go that route, as it would be opening itself to a host of liability and wrongful-death suits once prisoners started overdosing, as they most assuredly would.

      1. I’ll take your word for it.

        Either way, I don’t think they’re making this rule for stupid reasons. If that alcohol gets into the prison population, they’ll drink it.

        For sure.

      2. Denatured laboratory grade ethanol is kinda missing the point of laboratory grade.

  5. The two men say Texas inmates are unable to practice social distancing and often come into contact with surfaces where the virus may be present.

    “OK, fine: solitary confinement for everyone!”

  6. >>unable to practice social distancing

    they can seek solitary confinement

  7. Let’s look at our two named plaintiff inmates, courtesy of the Texas Tribune. First, Laddy Curtis Valentine. https://www.texastribune.org/library/data/texas-prisons/inmates/laddy-curtis-valentine/1184640/ Multiple convictions for Agg. Sex Assault, including continuous abuse of a child. He gets out in 2036, theoretically. 25 year sentence, convicted 2011.

    Do a similar search for Richard King, and you’ll find he’s doing two life sentences for murder, from 1989.

    Nope, still don’t care if they catch Covid or not. Probably safer in jail anyway.

    At least they haven’t been let out yet, for fear of catching the virus.

  8. Why the fuck do people think hand sanitizer is going to magically stop the disease when they’re living literally on top of one another? What, are they going to bathe in the stuff?

    ACLU proves once again that they are a joke these days.

  9. Once the Feds have “denatured” hand sanitizer with enough methanol to cause blindness and death, distribution to prisoners will become mandatory, as it was during the effective term of the Volstead Act.

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