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D.C. Pro Bono Team Helps Prisoners

April 29, 2020
Pro bono victory ensures prisoners at largest halfway house in US will be better protected from COVID-19.

Thanks to the pro bono efforts of a Washington, D.C.-based team, prisoners at the largest federal halfway house in the United States were released to home confinement in April, where they can better protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19 that is now overtaking correctional facilities across the US.

Our lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at the Hope Village Halfway House in conjunction with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and American Civil Liberties Union on April 2. Fewer than three weeks later, they obtained a commitment from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to move all BOP prisoners out of Hope Village by April 30, with more than 150 going to home confinement with electronic monitoring. 

The class action alleged violations of the Eighth Amendment and Section 1983, and sought injunctive relief to dramatically reduce the population at Hope Village so that the remaining prisoners could effectively social distance and protect themselves. When Latham began this case, prisoners were sleeping and eating in conditions that violated not only Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and Washington, D.C.-area guidelines, but the BOP’s own policies. Prisoners were crowded together and forced to eat in a dining room that lacked a handwashing station. The facility had no on-site medical facilities and no COVID-19 screening for employees or new residents.   

Faced with mounting political and legal pressure, Hope Village opted to close at the end of April.  The Hope Village population is now down to fewer than a dozen from more than 200, with the rest set to leave by the end of this week.  The BOP is working to establish a new residential reentry facility in DC in coming months.