Four inmates have filed a lawsuit against Hamblen County Jailin in Tennesse, alleging they are forced to wear inadequate clothing and live in unsanitary conditions.
The lawsuit highlights how crowded Hamblen County Jail is. The facility is supposed to hold 255 inmates, but there are currently 384 detained there. As a result, inmates are forced to sleep on thin mats placed on the floor without pillows. They have to sleep shoulder-to-shoulder in unsanitary spaces that lack ventilation.
The suit also contends that the jail has a two-tiered criminal justice system. Inmates who can afford to pay bail are released right away while those who can’t afford bail have to stay in jail.
“How quickly — or whether — a person is released from jail depends on her access to money,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs note that anyone who can’t pay bail has to stay in jail until they see a judge. During the first appearance, the conversation is held behind closed doors without an attorney present.
“Arrested persons have no opportunity to raise any challenge to their ongoing pretrial detention or modify the bail amount written on their warrant,” the suit states.
The plaintiffs claim the jail officials don’t consider individuals’ unique circumstances and their ability to pay bail.
Bethany Edmond, who was arrested for littering and drug possession, said she can’t afford the $1,500 bail because she’s homeless and had 36 cents in her pocket at the time of her arrest.
Another plaintiff, Amanda Cameron, who was arrested on several drug charges, must pay $30,000 to leave jail. Her income is limited to $300 a week, so she can’t realistically make bail.
Unfortunately, Hamblen County Jail isn’t the first jail to be accused of having poor living conditions.
Last November, inmates filed a class action lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections, alleging they were exposed to chronic mold and other unsanitary conditions.
The suit claims that the inmates suffered health problems because their complaints about the mold were ignored.
Paula Bailey alleges that mold gave her a rash, scars and respiratory problems. Another inmate, Krystal Clark, claims she suffers from chronic coughing and has to wear a mask when visiting with people.
Jonathan Marko, an attorney for the plaintiffs, says there have been complaints about the prison for decades.
“This is just the latest in a long line of unconstitutional practices and barbaric conditions at the prison,” he said. “This is not your garden variety mold in your basement corner. This is toxic, poisonous mold.”