ACLU and Weld Co. Sheriff Resolve Class Action

WELD COUNTY, Colorado – The ACLU of Colorado and Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams have reached a resolution on a class action lawsuit regarding the county’s response to COVID-19 at the Weld County Jail.

ACLU filed the lawsuit in federal court on April 7 seeking an emergency order to compel Reams “to comply with COVID-19 public health guidelines, including physical distancing – for all high-risk individuals detained” at the prison, according to a ACLU press release.

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

Some of the provisions of the Consent Decree include:

  • Medically vulnerable people are identified on arrival at the prison, benefit from reinforced protections, including an individual cell when possible, and regular medical monitoring.
  • Measures are in place to promote social distancing.
  • Masks are distributed to all people in the prison and must be used.
  • Those detained at the prison are receiving COVID-19 tests in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • With few exceptions, until the end of the COVID-19 crisis, the prison is not accepting people charged with misdemeanors, municipal offenses and misdemeanors.
  • The Sheriff will routinely advise Weld County police chiefs to minimize arrests in custody and issue court summonses or personal bonds instead.
  • The Sheriff will provide regular reports to the Chief Judge of Weld County District Court, so that the court can undertake reviews to consider releasing people from jail where possible.

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

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

Sheriff Reams argued he did not act with willful indifference to the rights of those included in the class action, the documents show.

“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 prisons play in this pandemic. This proposed consent decree will save lives.

Pamela W. Robbins