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Washington inmates seek help from court in coronavirus case

Washington inmates seek help from court in coronavirus case 1

SEATTLE (AP) – Inmates at a Washington prison are hoping the state Supreme Court will step in on Friday and order the release of some offenders after almost a dozen people there test positive for the new coronavirus.

At least six inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex – the second largest prison in the state – have the disease and officials are awaiting results on 54 other cases, according to Department of Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair. Five workers at the facility also tested positive, he said.

The inmates filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking it to order Gov. Jay Inslee and Sinclair to release inmates who are 60 years old or older; those with underlying health conditions and those who are close to their release date. They filed an emergency motion this week after a demonstration at the facility turned violent.

In response, Inslee and Sinclair held a press conference on Thursday to discuss their efforts to prevent the virus from entering the prisons. They said they would release some non-violent offenders who are within 60 days of their release date and will continue to screen everyone in the prison system and isolate those who have symptoms.

The court ordered the state to file a response to the inmate petition by Friday morning, and the inmates’ lawyers must reply by noon, suggesting the court could rule quickly.

More than 9,600 people in Washington state have tested positive for the disease and at least 446 have died.

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The inmate petition said the outbreak in the Monroe facility, which can house up to 2,500 people, started weeks ago. They argue that there’s not enough space at the prison to properly quarantine or isolate people who are suspected to have coronavirus or test positive for the disease.

“The outbreak itself proves that DOC’s efforts at screening and effectively quarantining people have been disastrously ineffective,” the motion said.

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