SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — A federal judge slammed conditions at a Fulton County jail annex as repulsive.
He's ordered the county to clean them up and provide better treatment to women inmates who have a mental illness.
Channel 2's Tom Regan learned that some of the women being held in the South Fulton Jail Annex in Union City only faced minor charges. Attorney advocates say many of the women were living in virtual solitary confinement and in deplorable conditions.
“These women are laying on the floor, some on wet blankets, some covered in food and feces,” said advocacy attorney Devon Orland.
The attorney showed Regan pictures of some of the cells where female inmates with mental illness are being forced to live. The picture showed leaking toilets and mold on walls.
“This is their only blanket that they get issued. And it's being used to stop the water leaking from the toilet,” Orland said as he pointed to a photo of a cell. “This is the door where get the medication and food -- the tray slot. You can see it's flaking and rusted."
She says the women are confined to their cells 23 to 24 hours a day.
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“These conditions are inexplicable, and people are sick and they're becoming sicker,” Orland said. “Most of them are in for minor misdemeanors -- criminal trespass, disorderly conduct -- that sort of thing.”
Orland told Regan that many of the inmates can't afford bond money, and in some instances, end up living in the jail for months.
“Our expert testified when you treat people humanely and they get appropriate treatment, they become less of a security risk,” Orland said.
The Georgia Advocacy Office and Southern Center for Humans filed a federal suit last spring criticizing the jail conditions and treatment of women.
A federal judge called the situation repulsive. He ordered the county to allow women inmates out for four hours a day and to begin plans to clean up the cells.
“These women become more incapacitated due to their incarceration. If they had intervening treatment or community-based support, they wouldn't end up in jail to begin with,” Orland said.
Regan contacted the county for comment on this story. They sent him a statement, saying:
"We are reviewing the order issued today by Judge Ray. We have already begun working with the Sheriff’s office to identify and implement the immediate next steps to comply with the order. Earlier this year, the Sheriff’s Office implemented programs and protocols to serve inmates with behavioral health concerns, and we are exploring opportunities to add additional programs."
Cox Media Group