A San Diego federal judge has denied a request from medically vulnerable U.S. Marshals Service inmates for release from the Otay Mesa Detention Center due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw previously ruled in a similar lawsuit that medically vulnerable U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees be released from Otay Mesa.
However, Sabraw ruled Saturday the same standard could not apply to criminal detainees.
Sabraw wrote that the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which limits the ability for inmates in criminal custody to file lawsuits in federal court, places certain restrictions on inmate release requests when it concerns the conditions of their detention.
Both lawsuits were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued in both cases that overcrowded conditions at Otay Mesa have made social distancing an impossibility and puts detainees at serious risk of contracting the virus.
The facility has experienced the largest COVID-19 outbreak among the nation’s ICE facilities.
More than 200 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19. One ICE detainee, 57-year-old Carlos Escobar-Mejia, was hospitalized on April 24 and died Wednesday at Paradise Valley Hospital in National City, making him the first ICE detainee to die from COVID-19.