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Texas spent $1.1 million fighting a lawsuit from prisoners who asked for soap, hand sanitizer, and social-distancing measures, documents say

  • Two inmates sued the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice last year for access to sanitizer and soap.
  • The plaintiffs, aged 69 and 73, won the case, but a Texas appeals court overturned it in April 2021.
  • The Texas AG spent $1.1 million on the case, the reporter Keri Blakinger said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Texas spent $1.1 million fighting a lawsuit in which elderly prisoners asked for access to hand sanitizer, soap, and social-distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, official documents show.

Last March, Laddy Curtis Valentine, 69, and Richard Elvin King, 73, inmates at the Pack Unit geriatric prison in Grimes County, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, arguing that it was failing to “prevent transmission of COVID-19 to some of its most vulnerable inmates.”

The complaint alleged, for example, that the Pack Unit was denying inmates access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and alcohol-based hand rub, but was giving it to non-inmates conducting many of the same tasks. 

The complaint requested that the judge order the department to provide soap, disposable towels, and hand sanitizer to inmates, and enforce a six-foot social-distancing rule in communal areas. 

The plaintiffs won the case in late September, but it was overturned by the the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2021. The US Supreme Court declined to take up the case earlier this month.

On Thursday, The Marshall Project reporter Keri Blakinger tweeted that the state spent $1.1 million fighting the case, citing documents from the state attorney general’s office:

 

The expenses came from travel, court, or contract costs, and billable hours for attorneys, the documents showed. Insider has contacted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for comment.

Accusations that prisons across the US have failed to protect the health of inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a recurring theme.

In December, the Associated Press reported that one in every five state and federal prison inmates — around 275,000 people — had tested positive for COVID-19.

At the time, this was four times more than the rate of infection among the US general population.  

As of May 6, at least 2,700 inmates around the US have died from COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

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