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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Department of Corrections

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the Minnesota Department of Corrections by the ACLU over claims that the Moose Lake Correctional Facility failed to keep inmates safe during the pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed back in April and alleged that the Department of Corrections did not provide prisoners and staff with adequate protection. The lawsuit looked to release inmates who were at high risk for COVID-19 and were near the end of their sentences.

In her 37 page order, Sixth Judicial District Judge Leslie Beiers wrote that the DOC had taken steps to safeguard inmates - "Beginning in early March, Respondents educated inmates and staff on COVID-19 and prevention 20 strategies in a series of memoranda. They distributed extra soap, installed additional handwashing stations, and instituted enhanced cleaning protocols."

The order also denies an evidentiary hearing scheduled for August because Judge Beiers said the inmates failed to prove "deliberate indifference to Petitioners’ health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic."

DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell welcomed the judge's dismissal in a statement to the Duluth News Tribune.

"We do not minimize the serious risk that COVID-19 represents for those incarcerated and our staff. We will continue to coordinate with health experts on a multifaceted approach that minimizes the risk of mass infection through effective prevention and spread management strategies."

Statewide, there have been 351 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates with another 38 presumed positive cases and two deaths.

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