Complaint Successfully Nudges Tennessee Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tenneseans with Disabilities Welcome State’s Improved Guidelines: Revisions Prohibit Discrimination in Healthcare Rationing June 26, 2020 NASHVILLE, TN  – Tennessee has issued revised guidance prohibiting healthcare providers from discriminating against people with disabilities even when public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitate rationing of scarce resources. In response to a complaint filed by disability rights advocates (View complaint), the Tennessee Department of Health and COVID-19 Unified Command have revised the “Guidance for the Ethical Allocation of Scarce Resources During a Community-Wide Public Health Emergency as Declared by the Governor of Tennessee.” The revised document replaces the prior version released in July 2016 (View revised document). The revised guidance has effectively put Tennessee health providers on notice: Tennesseans with disabilities must be treated equally in healthcare decisions including those made during the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health emergencies. The protections of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and similar laws are not curtailed during emergencies. “We appreciate Tennessee’s prompt response to our complaint and willingness to meet the needs of people with disabilities by addressing issues beyond those we initially raised,” said Brian Keller, Public Policy Attorney at Disability Rights Tennessee. Key revisions to the guidelines include: Removal of categorical exclusions based on disability in favor of individual assessments. An individual can no longer be excluded from treatment based solely on a diagnosed disability. Narrowing the scope of survivability assessments from one year to imminent survival. Requiring reasonable modifications when necessary due to disability. This includes modifications to survivability assessment tools. For example, a person’s speech disability may negatively impact these assessments even though she...

Advocates Take ICE Back to Court Requesting Enforcement of Previous Ruling to Protect People in Custody from COVID-19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 25, 2020 Attorneys from national civil rights organizations seek to enforce earlier order to ensure the safety of thousands of people in detention RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Last night civil rights advocates filed a motion to enforce a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Central Division of California, seeking to enforce U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal’s recent order imposed on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Attorneys in the ongoing system-wide class action lawsuit Fraihat v ICE argue that ICE has flouted Judge Bernal’s order in three critical areas: failure to implement meaningful oversight measures; failure to review for release all people with COVID-19 risk factors; and failure to quickly and adequately update their detention standards to ensure the safety of medically vulnerable people in detention. In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have continued to skyrocket in ICE detention centers across the country – a grim reality proving that the agency is knowingly putting people at risk in defiance of the Court’s order. By ICE’s own count, there were 124 people in their custody who tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of the April 20 order. Today, that number is close to 2,500. ICE continues to detain the majority of medically vulnerable people in their custody in unsafe conditions. Two individuals, Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia and Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, recently died of COVID-19 while in ICE custody – a tragic and senseless loss of life resulting from the agency’s decision to continue to detain them in dangerous conditions despite having broad discretion to release people. “Six weeks ago,...

CREEC Supports Those Protesting Racist Violence. Black Lives Matter.

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) condemns racialized police brutality, racist vigilantism, and white weaponization of law enforcement. So much to condemn; so much work to do. Building on 400 years of racism and white supremacy in this country, this year has brought more shameful examples of racialized police brutality, including the recent murders at the hands of police officers of George Floyd (Black man), Breonna Taylor (Black woman), Tony McDade (Black trans man), Malik Williams (Black disabled man), and so many others on and off camera. This scourge plagues the entire nation, including CREEC’s home state of Colorado, where law enforcement murders of black men like Elijah McClain, Marvin Booker, Michael Marshall, and De’Von Bailey have not gained the national attention they deserve. We have also seen the vastly different law enforcement response to people protesting these murders – in Minneapolis, Denver, and elsewhere – in contrast to the response to white people – often armed – protesting measures instituted to protect us from the pandemic. We condemn these actions and the racist and white supremacist system of which they are a part. We call on cities to hold their police departments accountable. We call on society to recognize and work to eradicate the white supremacy that underpins so many of our institutions and replace those institutions with processes not hardwired to overpolice and cage Black and Brown people. CREEC also condemns the racist vigilantism exemplified by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and white weaponization of law enforcement such as Amy Cooper’s attempted murder-by-cop of Christian Cooper, a Black birder in Central Park. These, too, are...

CREEC and Others Call on Governor Polis to Stop COVID-19 From Becoming a Death Sentence for People in Prisons

As COVID-19 outbreaks continue to climb in Colorado prisons, CREEC joined others calling on Governor Polis to assert his executive authority and clemency powers to protect the most vulnerable people in prisons before it’s too late. The letter cited new data proving that his actions to date are insufficient to protect the lives of elderly and medically compromised people in prisons, correctional staff, and the community at large. While Colorado’s COVID-19 curve may be flattening for those who are free, the public health crisis is reaching a fever pitch for people who are incarcerated. A recent article revealed that testing at the Sterling Correctional Facility, now the site of the state’s 2nd largest COVID-19 outbreak, has confirmed that at least 278 people there — 266 incarcerated people and 12 staff members — have tested positive for the virus, many of whom are asymptomatic. At four other U.S. state prisons, 96% of the nearly 3,300 people who tested positive also showed no symptoms for the virus, further illustrating that simply isolating those who seem sick from those who appear well is not enough to halt the spread. At least one man died from contracting COVID-19 at Sterling — he was 86-years-old. ACLU-Colorado and eight criminal justice and indigent defense organizations sent a letter to the Governor on March 17 urging him to take decisive action to depopulate prisons and jails. The Governor later issued an Executive Order, which granted Colorado Department of Corrections Director Dean Williams the broad authority to consider releasing more than 7,000 people. But that order has been ineffective. More than a month after the Governor’s executive...

In Victory for Detained Immigrants, Federal Judge Orders ICE to Review for Release Every Person with COVID-19 Risk Factors

In sweeping ruling, ICE ordered to conduct new assessments for every person at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 in the custody of ICE, regardless of immigration case  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 20, 2020 RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A federal judge today ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to promptly revisit custody determinations, including consideration of release for all persons in ICE detention whose age or health conditions place them at increased risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order comes weeks after the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Orrick LLP and Willkie Farr and Gallagher LLP filed for an emergency preliminary injunction on March 25. In his blistering rebuke of the government’s response to COVID-19 in detention centers, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal wrote, “As a result of these deficiencies, many of which persist more than a month into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court concludes Defendants have likely exhibited callous indifference to the safety and wellbeing of the Subclass members [detained immigrants at risk]. The evidence suggests systemwide inaction that goes beyond a mere ‘difference of medical opinion or negligence.” Martín Muñoz, a plaintiff in the case stated, “I was always very worried for my health in ICE custody for the three years I was detained. When the pandemic arrived, I felt even worse; I was resigned that something bad was going to happen and I felt lost. ICE never responded to me, they never took steps to protect me. I am so happy the judge is forcing ICE to take steps to protect others.”   “Our clients have...