Court tosses lawsuit over KS prisoners

Civil rights group sought immediate release of prisoners vulnerable to coronavirus.


State News

May 14, 2020 - 9:42 AM

A panel of criminal justice officials proposed three specialty prisons that are estimated to cost the state $35 million to renovate and build. NOMIN UJIYEDIIN / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas court has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a civil rights rights group seeking the immediate release of prisoners who have preexisting medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the new coronavirus.

Leavenworth District Judge David King dismissed on Friday the class action petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on behalf of eight inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility, the Ellsworth Correctional Facility and the Topeka Correctional Facility and others similarly situated.

The district court found the ACLU didn’t prove that jail officials either failed to meet their constitutional duty to provide adequate medical care or acted with deliberate indifference to the inmates’ serious medical needs.

“We respect the court’s decision and will continue our work to ensure the health and safety of those that we serve,” said department spokeswoman Rebecca Witte.

The judge noted documents showed the Kansas Department of Corrections has “undertaken appropriate efforts to protect the inmate population in Kansas correctional facilities from COVID-19.”

“We are definitely disappointed for our clients who continue to face dangerous and declining conditions inside Lansing,” ACLU executive director Nadine Johnson said Tuesday. She said the number of positive cases has ballooned and argued that the state’s efforts are not enough.