BOSTON – The parties in Savino v Souza, the class action lawsuit challenging conditions at the Bristol County House of Correction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, today asked the federal judge hearing the case to approve a settlement agreement, according to Lawyers for Civil Rights.
According to a release, the case has reduced the number of people held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention at BCHOC – from 148 to 7 – having the immigration detainees return home to quarantine.
The class action lawsuit was filed in March 2020 and is believed to be the first lawsuit brought during the pandemic on behalf of all individuals in ICE detention at a facility, as opposed to only individuals with certain medical risk factors.
During the course of the litigation:
•The Court granted class certification, allowing the action to proceed on behalf of all individuals held in civil immigration detention at BCHOC.
•The Court ruled that BCHOC was likely to be found deliberately indifferent to class members’ health and safety needs due to “cavernous holes in the government’s mitigation strategy” during the pandemic, including a failure to reduce overcrowding, a lack of testing, and inadequate contact tracing.
•The Court released 43 individuals on bail. During the litigation, others paid bond set by Immigration Judges, obtained relief in their immigration cases, or were voluntarily released.
•The Court granted a preliminary injunction, barring ICE from admitting new individuals to detention without Court approval, which maximized and sustained population reduction. The Court also ordered that testing be made available to class members and BCHOC staff.
According to LFCR, the settlement announced today, if approved by the Court, will:
•Secure the continued release of those on bail.
•Secure the release of six additional individuals.
•Provide the remaining seven detained individuals the option of transferring to another New England ICE facility.
In documents filed today, the parties have jointly asked the Court to preliminarily approve the settlement and to set a Final Fairness Hearing within 28 days to grant final approval.