The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by two inmates to lift a stay on an order requiring a geriatric prison to take additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo
May 14 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request by two inmates to require a Texas prison to put additional measures in place to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
The court denied a request to vacate a stay on a lower court ruling requiring the Wallace Pack Unit -- a geriatric prison in Grimes County, Texas -- to provide unrestricted access to hand soap and hand sanitizer, educate inmates about the pandemic, provide a detailed plan to test all inmates and disinfect common areas every 30 minutes.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote they agreed with the ruling given the high bar to overturn a stay issued by a lower court but sought to highlight the "disturbing allegations" made against the prison.
"As the circumstances of this case make clear, the stakes could not be higher," Sotomayor wrote. "Just a few nights ago, respondents revealed that the numerous inmates and staff members at the Pack Unit are now COVID-19 positive and the vast majority of those tested positive within the past two weeks."
Last month, an inmate, Leonard Clerkly, died of complications related to COVID-19.
Sotomayor added that "it has long been said that society's worth can be judged by taking stock of its prisons."
"That is all truer in this pandemic, where inmates everywhere have been rendered vulnerable and often powerless to protect themselves from harm. May we hope that our country's facilities serve as models rather than cautionary tales," she wrote.
Inmates Laddy, Valentine, 69, and Richard King, 73, filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of inmates at the prison saying it was violating their constitutional rights barring cruel and unusual treatment.
A district court ruled in their favor, ordering the prison to take up the requested measures but a federal appeals court put the order on hold after Texas officials said they were already complying with or exceeding recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.