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Press Release

Federal Inmates Withdraw COVID-19 Class Action Lawsuit After Failing to Show BOP Violated Their Constitutional Rights

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. – Eleven inmates housed at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina (“FCC Butner”) voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit against Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) officials seeking release from prison as a result of the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to court documents, the federal inmates, who are represented by several advocacy groups, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on behalf of themselves and a purported class of current and future medically vulnerable inmates.  The inmates alleged violations of their Eighth Amendment rights related to FCC Butner's response to the COVID-19 crisis, and sought relief including mass release or transfer of inmates from FCC Butner in order to facilitate social distancing.  BOP officials filed substantial responses detailing the significant steps BOP and FCC Butner have taken to manage the crisis at FCC Butner.   

On June 11, 2020, United States District Court Judge Louise W. Flanagan denied the inmates’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, finding that the BOP officials made reasonable efforts toward the goals of preventing unnecessary illness and death and slowing the spread of the virus, that the claims were not appropriate under a habeas petition, and even if they were, the inmates failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits or that equity and public interests favor a temporary restraining order. (See attached order).  On Monday, the inmates filed a stipulation of dismissal essentially withdrawing their remaining claims.   

Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina commented: “Effectively managing prisons is a complex and difficult job on any day, but especially so in the midst of a global pandemic which affects so many people both inside and outside of the prison system.  We are gratified that the court, in its ruling denying the inmates’ request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, recognized the efforts that officials at FCC Butner have made to minimize the risk of virus infection to the prisoners while doing their usual excellent job at maintaining order and ensuring the safety of the public in operating these critical facilities.  I fully support the professional way in which that the FCC Butner officials continue to maintain the safety and security of the individuals housed within their institutions and the responsible manner in which they are managing the COVID-19 crisis.”   

Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bredenberg, Genna D. Petre, Christina Kelley, Mallory Brooks Storus, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rogers defended the case on behalf of the BOP officials.   

A copy of this press release is located on our website. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:20-HC-02088-FL.


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Updated July 2, 2020