Civil rights organization sues Wayne Co. Jail amid COVID-19 concerns

A new federal lawsuit claims the Wayne County Sheriff's Office isn't doing enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the jail.  

Meanwhile, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office says as of May 4, 200 employees and 30 inmates have tested positive.

"For a specific group of people in the jail who have conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and who have other serious medical conditions we really need to think about the process of getting them out of the jail as soon as possible because they are at an immediate risk of serious harm," said Thomas Harvey from the Advancement Project National Office.

According to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, 869 inmates were released on a tether and there are currently 830 at the jail. 

But attorneys at the Advancement Project National Office, based in Washington, D.C. say that's not enough. They say more need to be released until the jail can practice social distancing.

"People are quick to focus on the potential for community violence or the threat to public safety - that's not most of the people who are inside," said Ashley Carter from the Advancement Project National Office. "Regardless of your charges, you have a right to be safe inside these facilities that Wayne County is charged with maintaining."

The lawsuit also says people held in the jail don't have consistent access to masks, adequate testing or healthcare.

"They are people that matter, just like we matter. They're loved ones of people who are outside the jail, there are family members who are deeply concerned. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect

We reached out to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the prosecutor's office. Both declined to comment citing pending litigation.