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Texas spent $1.1 million fighting a lawsuit from prisoners who asked for soap, hand sanitizer, and social-distancing measures, documents say

Texas spent $1.1 million fighting a lawsuit from prisoners who asked for soap, hand sanitizer, and social-distancing measures, documents say

May 28, 2021
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Two prisoners sued the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice last year for access to sanitizer and soap. The plaintiffs, ages 69 and 73, won the case, but a Texas appeals court overturned it last month. The Texas attorney general spent $1.1 million on the case, the reporter Keri Blakinger […]

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a close up of a flag: A Texas flag flying at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas. Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • Two prisoners sued the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice last year for access to sanitizer and soap.
  • The plaintiffs, ages 69 and 73, won the case, but a Texas appeals court overturned it last month.
  • The Texas attorney general spent $1.1 million on the case, the reporter Keri Blakinger said.

Texas spent $1.1 million fighting a lawsuit in which two prisoners asked for access to hand sanitizer, soap, and social-distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, official documents show.

Last March, Laddy Curtis Valentine, 69, and Richard Elvin King, 73, who are serving time at the Pack Unit geriatric prison in Grimes County, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, arguing that it was failing to "prevent transmission of COVID-19 to some of its most vulnerable inmates."

The complaint alleged, for example, that the Pack Unit was denying prisoners access to personal protective equipment and alcohol-based hand rub but was giving it to non-prisoners conducting many of the same tasks.

The complaint requested that the judge order the department to provide soap, disposable towels, and hand sanitizer to prisoners and enforce a 6-foot social-distancing rule in communal areas.

The plaintiffs won the case in late September, but it was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last month. The US Supreme Court declined to take up the case earlier this month.

On Thursday, the Marshall Project reporter Keri Blakinger tweeted that the state spent $1.1 million fighting the case, citing documents from the state attorney general's office:

-Keri Blakinger (@keribla) May 27, 2021

The expenses came from travel, court, or contract costs, and billable hours for attorneys, the documents showed. Insider has contacted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for comment.

Accusations that prisons across the US have failed to protect the health of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a recurring theme.

In December, the Associated Press reported that one in five prisoners at state and federal facilities - about 275,000 people - had tested positive for COVID-19.

At the time, this was four times the rate of infection among the US general population.

As of May 6, at least 2,700 prisoners around the US have died from COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

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