Committee for Public Counsel Services, et al. v. Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office, et al.
Committee for Public Counsel Services, et al. v. Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office, et al. (Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Sept. 28, 2021): Massachusetts’ highest court found that local sheriffs that operate detention facilities have not acted with deliberate indifference in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Critical to the court’s decision was the availability of a highly effective vaccine to all inmates and staff. The court found the facilities’ failure to institute comprehensive virus screening as recommended by the CDC and failure to reduce the prison population did not rise to the level of deliberate indifference that would equate to a violation of inmates’ constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Likewise, the court found that permitting unmonitored in-person counsel visits and telephone communications was sufficient; the lack of access to high-quality, three-way videoconferencing did not violate inmates’ rights to counsel. Read the full decision here.