Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mounting Inmate Lawsuits Put Pressure on Camden County; Multiple Suits over Poor Jail Conditions Means a Fast Remedy Is Needed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mounting Inmate Lawsuits Put Pressure on Camden County; Multiple Suits over Poor Jail Conditions Means a Fast Remedy Is Needed

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

WOODBINE - For months, Camden County Sheriff Tommy Gregory has urged commissioners to do something about overcrowded conditions at the county jail.

Now, they may not have much time to make a decision.

County attorney Brent Green said three inmates have filed lawsuits in federal court complaining about overcrowded jail conditions - the most recent one delivered to his office Thursday.

And there's likely another on the way.

St. Marys attorney Jim Stein said he plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of an inmate who said he was beaten at the jail by other prisoners on Oct. 24 and given inadequate medical treatment.

Stein said his client, Derrick Smith, was beaten by fellow inmates because he had to use the toilet and woke up an inmate sleeping next to it.

"They have a duty to provide adequate facilities," Stein said. "That jail is 100 percent over capacity."

Gregory said the jail, with a capacity of 120 inmates, houses about 230 prisoners. He acknowledged inmates sleep on mattresses on the floor, sometimes next to toilets.

"I'm very positive they [lawsuits] will keep happening," Gregory said. "I know we don't meet the letter of the law. I'm very concerned."

Inmates also complained about mold in showers, human waste backing up through drains, inadequate medical treatment and unclean uniforms, sheets and blankets.

Gregory said inmates get into fights nearly every day because conditions are so crowded.

"People are on edge," he said. "You can't roll over without touching another inmate."

UNSAFE CONDITIONS FOR ALL

All three lawsuits say inmates have the right to humane conditions during confinement and that jail officials have shown a deliberate indifference to conditions. The inmates are each asking for $1.5 million in damages and for the overcrowded conditions to be corrected. …

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