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ACLU seeks release of Kansas inmates vulnerable to COVID-19

A civil rights group asked the Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday to immediately release prisoners who have preexisting medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas filed the class action petition on behalf of seven inmates being housed at Lansing Correctional Facility, the Ellsworth Correctional Facility and the Topeka Correctional Facility. They are
seeking an expedited hearing before the state’s highest court on the request by the named plaintiffs and other Kansas inmates in a similar situation.

Rebecca Witte, the spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, said the department would comment later on the filing.

“Petitioners are housed in crowded facilities with limited access to adequate medical treatment and sanitation supplies,” according to the petition.

“Several petitioners also have preexisting medical conditions that make them uniquely vulnerable to serious complications and death if they contract the COVID-19 virus, which has already infected both staff and individuals housed within Kansas prisons.”

The lawsuit contends that the release would not only prevent harm to the medically vulnerable inmates, but would also sufficiently reduce the population at prison facilities to ensure proper social distancing and reduce transmission
of the virus to inmates and the wider public.

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