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ACLU, Weld County Sheriff come to resolution on class action lawsuit

Posted at 7:04 AM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 09:04:04-05

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — The ACLU of Colorado and Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams have come to a resolution on a class action lawsuit over the county's response to COVID-19 in the Weld County Jail.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in federal courts April 7 seeking an emergency order to compel Reams "to comply with COVID-19 public health guidelines including physical distancing — for all high-risk people being held" at the jail, according to an ACLU news release.

The ACLU and Reams filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of a class action settlement Monday asking the federal court in Denver to enter a consent decree to memorialize the terms of the resolution.

Some of the provisions in the consent decree include:

  • Medically vulnerable persons are identified when they arrive at the jail, are afforded heightened protections, including single-celling when possible, and regular medical monitoring.
  • Measures are put in place to promote social distancing.
  • Masks are distributed to all persons at the jail and are required to be used.
  • Persons held at the jail receive COVID-19 testing consistent with CDC guidelines.
  • With only limited exceptions, through the end of the COVID-19 crisis, the jail does not accept persons charged with misdemeanors, municipal offenses and petty offenses.
  • The Sheriff will regularly advise police chiefs in Weld County to minimize custodial arrests and instead issue court summonses or personal recognizance bonds.
  • The Sheriff will provide regular reports to the Chief Judge of the Weld County District Court, so that the court can undertake reviews to consider persons for release from the jail when feasible.

The proposed consent decree also calls for continued data sharing on jail populations and COVID-19 infections.

According to court documents, the resolution "will promote safety in the WCJ with respect to COVID-19, while allowing Sheriff Reams to protect the public and operate the WCJ as required by law."

Sheriff Reams has maintained he didn't act with deliberate indifference to the rights of those included in the class action lawsuit, the documents say.

“Our state, like much of the country, is in crisis with COVID-19,” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Dan Williams. “We can no longer ignore the role that jails play in this pandemic. This proposed consent decree will save lives.”