UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WJZ) — A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Tuesday accuses the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections of failing to take appropriate action to slow the spread of the coronavirus at the county’s jail.

Eight detainees, some of whom have medical conditions like asthma or bronchitis, are suing the department’s director, Mary Lou McDonough, saying there is an “uncontrolled outbreak” of COVID-19 in the Prince George’s County Jail and officials have “failed to take appropriate action in response.”

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The group is asking a court to order the corrections department to increase cleaning in the jail; provide detainees individual supplies of soap, paper towels and cleaning supplies; provide personal protective equipment for inmates and jail staff and provide adequate medical and mental health care to prisoners.


On Twitter, Washington, D.C.-based Civil Rights Corps, which is representing the detainees, said people will die if the county doesn’t act.

“A 23-hour lockdown traps people in close quarters with others who may be sick. If conditions persist, people will die,” they tweeted.

The corrections department has until May 5 to file a response. A spokesperson told WJZ Tuesday night McDonough has not been served the lawsuit and cannot comment at this time.

While a number of positive cases at the jail was not immediately available, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services reported 152 cases of COVID-19 within its system as of Tuesday.

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Prince George’s County as a whole has reported 3,734 cases of the virus as of Tuesday, the most of any county in the state. There have also been 111 deaths reported in the county.

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Over the past five weeks, more than 2,000 inmates have been released from facilities across the state in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.

On Monday, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office said it has reduced the jail’s population by 150 since March 1 as part of its “Operation Safe Release” Initiative amid the pandemic.

“Since the start of this pandemic, we have been concerned about the possibility of infection at the detention center and have been actively working with the Office of the Public Defender and the Department of Corrections to reduce the population,” State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said. “My office has put in place a ‘safe release program’ for inmates as a proactive way to reduce the spread of this deadly virus in the jail.”

Braveboy’s office said the county jail population shrank from 718 on March 1 to 568 on Monday.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.