WASHINGTON – This morning, Deon Crowell, a 51-year-old man incarcerated at the Correctional Treatment Facility at the D.C. Jail, died from COVID-19. The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the ACLU of the District of Columbia filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all individuals incarcerated at the jail on March 30 and sought immediate relief. Mr. Crowell would have been part of that class.

The following can be attributed to Jenna Cobb, Staff Attorney, Special Litigation Division, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia:

“Mr. Crowell’s death is all the more tragic because it was preventable. While the Department of Corrections has, since we sued, finally begun to take seriously its authority under the emergency D.C. Council legislation to release sentenced misdemeanants, more than 1,400 people remain at the D.C. Jail. Many have severe medical conditions that also put them at extreme risk of death from COVID-19. DOC’s response has been far too little and far too late. If it cannot meet its constitutional obligations to those in their custody, the court must step in.”

The lawsuit and pending request for emergency relief ask the Court to appoint an independent expert to quickly assess who can be released to home confinement safely, and to order specific requirements for those who must remain incarcerated, including access to soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants; personal protective equipment for DOC staff; regular monitoring of individuals’ health through temperature checks; and other measures.

Two inspectors appointed by the court, Grace Lopes and Mark Jordan, have visited the Jail to provide the Court with an independent finding of the conditions inside. Their report is pending.