Lawsuit seeks emergency release of some Shelby County Jail detainees because of COVID-19

Lawsuit seeks emergency release of some Shelby County Jail detainees because of COVID-19

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A lawsuit filed against the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the immediate release of “medically-vulnerable" detainees inside the Shelby County Jail.

Filed Wednesday afternoon by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Just City, the federal class action suit claims the jail failed to uphold constitutional and statutory minimum requirements, putting people behind bars and jail staff at risk of COVID-19 and the associated complications.

The suit seems emergency action “to protect medically vulnerable people, including people with disabilities, detained at the jail who are at high risk of severe injury or death from COVID-19,” reads a statement from the plaintiffs.

The suit also seeks the release of those who are detained because of their inability to pay bail or because of a technical violation of probation or parole with the exception of those with a demonstrated flight or safety risk.

Other plaintiffs include the American Civil Liberties Union; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and attorneys Brice Timmons and Steve Mulroy.

WMC has reached out to the sheriff’s office for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson said they do not comment on pending litigation.

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner previously spoke at the county’s COVID-19 task force briefing, saying they’ve worked with the district attorney’s office to reduce the jail population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bonner said many of the remaining inmates were facing felony charges, the most serious being first-degree murder.

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