OREGON — Seven adults in custody at Oregon correctional facilities are plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Oregon Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Department of Corrections.
The seven individuals, all over the age of 60, are seeking a temporary restraining order and for adults in custody around the state to be given safer living facilities during a global pandemic.
Three adults in custody from Shutter Creek Correctional Institution were quoted in declarations filed by the witnesses in the case. The case was filed in April.
“We are simply asking the Department of Corrections and Governor Brown to do what is constitutionally required of them: to protect the health and wellbeing of those in their care,” said Juan Chavez via a press release. Chavez is representing the plaintiffs and is the Civil Rights Project Director for the Oregon Justice Resource Center.
As of Monday there were 146 positive coronavirus cases associated with correctional facilities across the state. The last two weeks have seen the case number continue to grow as the disease has impacted the Oregon State Penitentiary where there are now 80 positive cases in adults in custody and 22 employees have tested positive.
Shutter Creek Correctional Facility has had 25 adults in custody test positive. Two employees have tested positive and one employee is considered a presumptive positive despite testing negative.
The legal case includes 15 quotes from adults in custody around the state. Three individuals who are incarcerated at Shutter Creek were quoted discussing how the virus has impacted them.
“I’m on day 21 of being sick. I signed a waiver not to get tested. I only have 90 days left in custody and I don’t want to get lost. I’ve had heart palpitations and struggle to breathe at times,” said Steven Richards of Shutter Creek.
“This is the second time I’ve been sick with the same symptoms. On or about March 2, I went to medical telling them I felt like I was dying, and they told me to gargle with salt water. They gave me five packets of salt and said to snort it if I couldn’t breathe. I called my mom and told her I felt like I was dying, and I might need a will drawn up. The second time getting sick has been way worse but if I take a test and get moved to another facility, I don’t expect to get the medical care I need. I’ll just have to suffer without my property and access to the phone and tablet.”
The quotations from those at Shutter Creek is in line with previous reporting from The World about adults in custody not wanting, or in some cases refusing, to be tested for coronavirus.
“Not knowing what will happen to me if I test positive makes me not want to take a test. This is my home facility and it took 18 months for me to get here. This is where my family is. If I get sent to Coffee Creek, I don’t know if I can come back, and I don’t want to take that chance. I want to be told honestly what would happen. At least then I’d know, and I could worry less about it,” said Chris Mitchell.