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Prince George’s County asks judge to toss suit over virus in jail

Paula Xinis

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis. (File photo)

GREENBELT — One of Maryland’s largest counties on Sunday asked a federal judge to throw out a civil rights group’s lawsuit that claims its jail has failed to stop an “uncontrolled” coronavirus outbreak or properly care for infected prisoners.

The class action suit filed Tuesday by Civil Rights Corps claims Prince George’s County Jail prisoners who test positive for COVID-19 are isolated in cells with walls covered in feces, mucus and blood.

“They are barely monitored and receive no real treatment,” the suit says.

The Washington, D.C.-based group’s suit asks the court to order the immediate release of medically vulnerable prisoners. U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis in Greenbelt, Maryland, instructed the county to file a written response to the suit’s claims before she rules.

In a court filing Sunday, attorneys for the county said jail officials acted proactively to protect inmates and staff from the virus. Mary Lou McDonough, director of the county’s corrections department, “led the way” among correctional facilities in Maryland to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, county officials wrote.

The county says the jail’s average daily population has dropped from 720 to 560 inmates since March 1, with 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the jail population. None of the infected inmates have been hospitalized, and 10 of them have fully recovered and returned to the jail’s general population, the county says.

McDonough is the only defendant named in the suit.

Civil Rights Corps has filed similar suits over conditions at jails in Miami, Dallas, Chicago and Detroit.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even death.

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