DENVER — The ACLU of Colorado and a county sheriff’s office have reached an agreement Tuesday to implement measures at the county’s jail to better protect inmates from the coronavirus pandemic.
Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams and the ACLU have asked a federal judge to enter a consent decree between the two sides to officially implement the changes and provide federal oversight.
The ACLU had filed a lawsuit in April alleging that the sheriff’s office had failed to meet public health orders related to the pandemic and did not sufficiently protect inmates, jail staff and the public.
“With this resolution, people held in the Weld County Jail as well as staff and the public at large stand a fighting chance against this virus,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein in a statement Tuesday.
As part of the agreement, the jail is required to promote social distancing, require and distribute masks to all people in the jail, conduct coronavirus testing pursuant to U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines and isolate medically vulnerable inmates while monitoring them regularly. The jail also agreed, with limited exceptions, to prevent inmates charged with misdemeanor, municipal or petty crimes from being held in the facility.
The county sheriff will also be required to regularly advise officers to minimize custodial arrests. Weld’s office will also provide a regular report to the Chief Judge of the Weld County District Court, whose court will consider potential releases because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Joe Moylan, a spokesperson for the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, told The Associated Press, “We don’t have anything more to offer beyond what’s stipulated in the agreement.”
There are currently 1,558 virus cases among the state’s inmate population of 14,083, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
“We can no longer ignore the role that jails play in this pandemic, ACLU Cooperating Attorney Dan Williams said in a statement. “This proposed consent decree will save lives.”