Leavenworth County judge tosses lawsuit on inmate safety at Kansas prisons

Lansing Correctional Facility
Posted at 7:40 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 20:40:36-04

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. — 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 the class action petition Friday, which had been 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.

There have been more than 800 positive COVID-19 cases at Lansing alone, where prison-wide testing found that many infected inmates showed no symptoms.

According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, 728 inmates and 88 staff members at Lansing Correctional have tested positive for the virus, including three inmates and one staff member who have died.

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,” department spokeswoman Rebecca Witte said.

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.

The Lansing prison outbreak is one of the largest coronavirus clusters in the country, according to The New York Times.

41 Action News staff contributed to this report.