Laddy Curtis Valentine is a 69-year-old man suffering from high blood pressure, hypertension, nerve damage from a stroke, atrophy and weakness in the upper-left extremity, and limited ability to grip with his left hand. Richard Elvin King is a 73-year-old man with diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney failure, hyperlipidemia, and kidney disease. Mr. Valentine and Mr. King are just two of the 1,132 men imprisoned in the Wallace Pack Unit (“the Pack Unit”) in Grimes County, Texas. Like Mr. Valentine and Mr. King, approximately 800 incarcerated men housed in the Pack Unit are over the age of sixty-five, and the majority of them have serious medical conditions.
Between April and September 2020, twenty people incarcerated in the Pack Unit died after being infected with COVID-19, representing more than eleven percent of COVID-19 deaths in the entire Texas Department of Criminal Justice (“TDCJ”). Since the first positive case in April 2020, over 500 people incarcerated in the Pack Unit have tested positive for the virus. Because the Pack Unit is a dormitory-style facility, it is difficult to remain six feet apart at all times, as recommended by the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). However, there are several ways the administrators of the unit could create more space between people, such as requiring those incarcerated to sleep head-to-foot to increase the distance between their faces in neighboring cubicles while they sleep. TDCJ first adopted a written policy to address COVID-19 on March 20, 2020, and has updated it six times since its first version, which initially did not include all of the CDC’s guidelines. Although the Pack Unit put an initial social distancing plan in place, it did not address every potential issue, including the fact that people remained less than six feet apart when sleeping.