Skip to main content

Minnesota ACLU's COVID lawsuit against Department of Corrections can move forward, judge rules

The lawsuit alleges the Minnesota Department of Corrections violated inmates rights through its handling of the pandemic.

A Ramsey County Court judge ruled Wednesday that the ACLU of Minnesota can go ahead with a lawsuit alleging the state’s COVID-19 approach in prisons violated inmates' constitutional rights.

Judge Sara Grewing ruled that all inmates in the Minnesota Department of Corrections can be included in the class action lawsuit, which was filed in October.

The ACLU of Minnesota can also add Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Department of Health and MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm as defendants along with the DOC.

The lawsuit alleges that the DOC’s vaccination program violates state inmates’ constitutional rights to “equal protection, due process and protection against cruel or unusual punishment.”

The ACLU points to state vaccination rates for inmates, which show around 20% of Minnesota’s roughly 7,600 inmates are fully vaccinated.

Given the conditions of prisons, in which inmates live and work closely together, the numbers are “deeply troubling,” according to Grewing’s ruling.

“We are pleased and gratified by the Court’s decision, which will allow us to continue to press ahead vigorously to require the State to comply with its legal duty to protect those in its care and custody from COVID-19 so long as the pandemic is with us,” said ACLU of Minnesota staff attorney Dan Shulman in a statement.

The lawsuit also alleges that the DOC did not take adequate measures to protect inmates from COVID-19, including denying medical release to some inmates with underlying conditions.

“There has been one blind spot in Minnesota’s leadership on the COVID-19 pandemic: jails and prisons,” the lawsuit reads.

“In contrast to the speed with which Minnesota has followed public health officials’ other warnings, it has failed almost completely to act in any coordinated way to prevent COVID-19 from spreading rapidly through correctional facilities and overwhelming medical resources in nearby communities.”

According to Grewing’s ruling, the DOC told the court it would have all inmates vaccinated by April 9. Grewing wrote that the court will await verification on that promise. 

Next Up

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.


Signs that MN Legislature could move to loosen liquor laws

A provision was approved by a legislature committee on Thursday but still awaits a final decision from the House and Senate.

US Bank Stadium

U.S. Bank Stadium looking to hire 400 part-time workers

A hiring fair will be held for the positions.

Screen Shot 2022-05-20 at 8.55.56 AM

Officials looking for man last seen leaving Hudson home

David Mckay, 67, was last seen in Hudson Thursday morning.


'Hyper-contagious' BA.4, BA.5 COVID variants confirmed in MN

Omicron continues to evolve into a more transmissible virus.

covid-19, coronavirus

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, May 20

The latest data shows there are 442 people with COVID hospitalized in Minnesota.


prison, Rush City cell block

2 more Minnesota prison inmates die after getting COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, eight COVID-positive inmates in Minnesota prisons have died.


Lawsuit claims MN prison inmates aren't adequately protected from COVID-19

The ACLU-MN filed a class-action lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections and its commissioner.

George Floyd

ACLU protester lawsuit against Minneapolis, MPD will move forward

A federal judge denied motions to dismiss the suit.

prison, Rush City cell block

10th Minnesota prison inmate dies after COVID-19 diagnosis

Three other inmates who contracted the virus are hospitalized in critical condition.

prison, Rush City cell block

Another Minnesota prison inmate dies after COVID-19 diagnosis

The virus has killed at least six Minnesota inmates.

3rd Precinct

ACLU of Minnesota sues city, state leaders on behalf of protesters

The lawsuit alleges law enforcement violated protesters' constitutional rights during the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 10.38.01 PM

ACLU lawsuit alleges excessive force by Worthington police officer

The ACLU says the victim required five days of intensive care.

Image from iOS (48)

ACLU sues Minneapolis PD over actions against journalists covering protests

The lawsuit says police pepper-sprayed and threatened journalists, among other things.