Judge shoots down request for emergency release of ’medically vulnerable’ Baton Rouge detainees

EBR Parish Prison reports no cases of COVID-19 among inmates; judge denies request for some inmates to be released

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A federal judge denied an emergency request filed by a group of Baton Rouge detainees who’d hoped to be released from the parish prison.

The detainees’ larger lawsuit asks that a judge orders jail officials to release detainees to home confinement to slow the spread of COVID-19, improve the jail’s conditions, and enforce better inmate treatment.

This offshoot request asked that Judge Brian Jackson order the immediate release of all detainees who are considered “medically vulnerable.”

Judge Jackson, in an analysis of the request, determined the detainees’ attorneys used the wrong legal arguments to ask for the emergency release.

Jackson explained that the crux of the argument presented in the request deals with the detainees feeling as though jail staffers can’t adequately protect them from COVID-19 exposure.

The legal arguments cited, however, are almost exclusively applicable to cases where an inmate is challenging their imprisonment on the basis of their arrest being unconstitutional, Jackson wrote.

Jackson further explained the federal court can only be asked to intervene when state courts and agencies fail to provide other remedies.

In this case, Jackson wrote, the state has taken measures to slow the spread of the virus in the jail, including releasing certain detainees and establishing guidelines to review other detainees’ for release on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, other remedies were made available, Jackson explained.

“Here, officials at EBRPP consulted with public health professionals, devised and incorporated safety protocols at the facility, and informed the inmates of measures that they, themselves, could perform to protect themselves from the virus while in the facility,” Jackson wrote, noting issues in the viability of the overall lawsuit.

A prison spokeswoman said Monday, July 6, an inmate recently tested for the virus is negative, meaning there are currently no positive cases among the prison population.

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