Wisconsin Supreme Court Rejects ACLU Coronavirus Lawsuit

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has denied the petition of American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin (ACLU) seeking removal of inmates from Wisconsin correctional facilities to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit had argued that Wisconsin prisoners and jail inmates should be released because subjecting prisoners to a likely outbreak of COVID-19 violates the rights to be free of cruel and unusual punishment and to receive due process.

The plaintiffs asked the court to ensure enough prisoners are released so that no person shares a cell with another person, there is six feet of separation between beds, and other social distancing guidelines are achieved in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. ACLU suggested that individuals at high risk of contracting the disease should be prioritized for removal.

ACLU, along with Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Disability Rights Wisconsin, filed the lawsuit against Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr, and the chairman of the Wisconsin Parole Commission. The defendants opposed the petition. The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the petition for original action on April 24, stating that the administration is already taking concrete steps to manage COVID-19 in Wisconsin correctional facilities and the remedies requested by the plaintiffs are outside the scope of the court’s powers.