Weld County Sheriff Responds to ACLU Lawsuit About COVID-19 in Weld County Jail
On Monday, April 13, Sheriff Steve Reams filed a response with the U.S. District Court, regarding allegations on how the Weld County Sheriff's Office and jail has handled COVID-19 thus far.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado claimed that the Weld County Sheriff's Office was deliberately indifferent about the global pandemic, and did little to protect the inmates in jail from the virus. Specifically, the ACLU of Colorado lawsuit filed on April 7 alleged that one inmate was denied care, even after displaying obvious signs of COVID-19.
The "Declaration of Steve Reams" opposed these claims, providing 28 pages which documented the specific steps and precautions that the agency and facility took in preparation for the outbreak. According to Reams, the Weld County Sheriff's Office took 81 different steps to prevent an outbreak in the jail, and began preparing weeks ahead of the curve.
On February 27, the detentions and administrative divisions' captains reviewed the agency's policies on inmate screening and evaluations – this included going over policies regarding communicable diseases with an update specifically focusing on the coronavirus, should it come to Weld County. Also on this day, the sheriff's office began doubling their orders of household cleaners, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. At this time, there were no known COVID-19 cases in Colorado.
On March 4, the sheriff's office acted on recommendations from Human Resources of Weld County to implement precautions like frequent hand washing, hand sanitizing, and covering mouths when sneezing and coughing for all employees and inmates. Employees were also encouraged to stay home if they felt sick.
On March 6, jail leadership developed a comprehensive plan to address COVID-19. With the help of medical services contractor, Key Health Services, this included the hiring of more floating nurses providing more frequent monitoring, acquiring additional screening tools and drafting new screening guidelines, drafting transitional housing, and isolation solutions.
March 13 marked the day that the Weld County Sheriff's Office took the first step in reducing inmate population, by asking law enforcement partners at the municipal level to issue a court summons or citation for offenses that wouldn't require a mandatory jail sentence. According to Reams, as of Monday, April 13, the population at the Weld County Jail was 513 inmates – a 35% decrease from 789 inmates on March 1, 2020.
On March 31, there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an inmate in the Weld County Jail.
The sheriff's office did investigate in regards to the ACLU's claim that an inmate was denied treatment after displaying COVID symptoms, and proved it was unsubstantiated.