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Lompoc prison ordered to begin release of inmates to home confinement due to COVID-19

Lompoc prison ordered to begin release of inmates to home confinement due to COVID-19

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A Los Angeles federal judge last week ordered Lompoc prison officials to begin a court-supervised process of identifying inmates to release on home confinement in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as part of a class-action lawsuit filed in May. 

U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall on July 14 approved a provisional class certification including Lompoc inmates who are at risk for the coronavirus and granted a preliminary injunction preventing officials from confining them until public health guidelines for detention facilities are followed and enough inmates have been released to make the prison safe. 

The lawsuit — filed on May 16 by inmates Yonnedil Torres, Vincent Reed, Felix Garcia, Andre Brown and Shawn Fears — accuses warden Louis Milusnic and Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal, alleging cruel and unusual punishment for not preventing the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 1,000 inmates and staff at the complex. 

Additionally, Carvajal and Milusnic are accused of not following memoranda by Attorney General William Bar ordering the bureau to release at-risk inmates to home confinement. 

The defendants deny the allegations and asked the judge on July 2 to dismiss the lawsuit, according to court documents. 

The judge ordered five deadlines for various stages in the process of identifying at-risk inmates, or those over the age of 50 and those of any age with underlying health conditions, including serious heart conditions and immune deficiencies, among others, according to the lawsuit.

Carvajal and Milusnic were directed by the end of Monday to provide a sealed list that identifies at-risk inmates, whether they've applied for home confinement and if their applications were reviewed. 

By the end of Wednesday, Milusnic and Carvajal must reveal the process used to identify inmates in the list, then notify them they're being considered for home confinement, according to the lawsuit. The defendants must also institute a process that includes free telephone calls and emails to families in order to arrange plans. 

In addition, the defendants must also by the end of Wednesday identify coronavirus-related compassionate release criteria for inmates and explanations for denial. 

If an inmate hasn't received a decision, Milusnic and Carvajal must either refer recommended compassionate release requests or provide explanations for their denials by the end of Aug. 3, according to the lawsuit.

Milusnic and Carvajal were ordered to "make full and speedy use" of their authority to evaluate inmates for risk factors by the end of July 28. 

By the end of July 29, the defendants must provide a sealed list of inmates eligible for home confinement and explanations for each denial, according to the lawsuit. 

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A federal prison complex in California struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus because of staff shortages, limited use of home confinement and ineffective screening, the Justice Department watchdog said Thursday as it released the first results of remote inspections of facilities across the country.

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