New lawsuit seeks release of medically vulnerable inmates in Philadelphia federal prison

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) Three inmates incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center at Seventh and Arch streets in Philadelphia have filed a class action lawsuit they want to be temporarily released during the coronavirus crisis.

Plaintiffs Timothy Brown, Myles Hannigan, and Anthony Hall are detained at the FDC, and all claim they have underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable to serious illness or death if they were to contract COVID-19.

"There are about a thousand inmates in the Federal Detention Center and there are very safe guards to keep the coronavirus from breaking out inside the jail,” said Ben Geffen, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center. 

He says his clients are locked down 23 hours a day and are two to a cell. And while they have masks, other protective materials are limited.

"There's not enough supplies for people to clean things like high touch surfaces, inmates don’t have access to things like gloves, they have restricted access to things like masks,” Geffen said. 

As of Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported 449 federal inmates and 280 staff who are currently positive for COVID-19 nationwide. Sixteen inmates have died. 

Geffen says his clients want house arrest until this pandemic is over for their safety and for others.

"So the conditions inside the jail will improve for the people who remain inside,” Geffen added.

So far, there are two positive inmate cases in Philadelphia federal facilities, but none at the FDC.

The Bureau of Prisons has implemented a plan which includes social distancing and staff and inmate screenings.