Lawsuit Against Dallas Sheriff Alleges Jail Conditions Spread COVID-19, Put Officers at ‘Extreme Risk'

Texas Sky Ranger

A Dallas County detention service officer filed a class-action lawsuit against the Dallas County sheriff claiming the sheriff allowed conditions in the county jail that promoted the spread of COVID-19 and put officers at "extreme risk."

Emanuel Lewis work as a detention service officer (DSO) at the Suzanne Lee Kays Detention Facility of the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in downtown Dallas.

In the lawsuit, Lewis alleges that sheriff Marian Brown did not enforce social distancing in the jail, did not provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and did not provide testing at the Jail, leading to a "public health nuisance."

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the class-action lawsuit, which represents approximately 900 detention service officers working at the jail.

In the lawsuit, Lewis said that in the South Tower, where he was assigned, dozens of 64-person pods were filled to capacity, making it impossible for inmates and officers to social distance at six feet.

The lawsuit also claimed testing of DSOs and inmates was "virtually non-existent," and, as a result, the total number of DSOs diagnosed with COVID-19 were not disclosed to fellow officers.

Those who did test positive and suffered multiple hardships, the lawsuit alleges, had their worker's compensation insurance claims denied.

"One Dallas County human resources representative recently proudly declared that he was denying 99.9% of coronavirus worker's compensation claims," the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit also said the sheriff did not provide the DSOs with proper training when dealing with symptomatic inmates.

In one scenario in the lawsuit, Lewis said on Aug. 13, a pod in the jail had been placed under quarantine, but then, the next shift of DSOs for the pod, including Lewis, were not informed of the quarantine situation.

Inadequate cleaning and poor hygienic practices, combined with a lack of PPE, also contributed to the spread of COVID-19, according to the lawsuit.

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