SALT LAKE CITY — Six federal inmates at the Weber County Jail are suing the county sheriff and the U.S. Marshals, alleging the jail has not taken proper precautions amid a novel coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 100.
Their lawsuit seeks transfers out of the jail for those who are medically vulnerable, inmates confirmed to have the virus, and extra prisoners who are overcrowding the jail. It also seeks a judge’s order directing jailers to follow CDC guidelines they say have not been honored.
One of the inmates, Taylor William Hobbs, felt sick while working in the jail’s kitchen but continued work because he was worried he would lose his job, the class action lawsuit says.
Hobbs alleges he became so ill that a supervisor sent him to medical employees, who suspected he had a urinary tract infection and rejected his request for a COVID-19 test even though he reported he was weak and achy. Days later, he and another kitchen worker tested positive. He has been hospitalized with pneumonia in the past and worries he will suffer complications from the new virus, the lawsuit states.
The five other inmates allege the jail has failed to test them, not given them proper medical care or simply held them despite rising cases of the virus. They are: Antonio Velasquez, Juan Sandoval-Pasos, Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, Gregorio Ramirez Frias and Zachary Robert Babcok.
Their current incarceration fits the definition of cruel and unusual punishment and violates their right to due process, their federal public defenders argue in the suit.
They contend that an inmate who arrived with a cough — one of the jail’s first two infected prisoners — was not tested and instead housed with the general population, contrary to the county’s prior assertions about the precautions it was taking. The inmate developed further symptoms and tested positive at the jail eight days later, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit names as defendants Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon; Matt Harris, the U.S. Marshal for the District of Utah; and Donald Washington, director of the U.S. Marshal Service.
They have not yet responded in court documents.
The county jail has previously said it is taking widespread precautions, requiring masks and either isolating in single cells or quarantining together those who test positive, monitoring them daily. The jail has said it is identifying inmates at risk of serious illness and is working with the courts to secure their release.