The prospective class action alleges that Georgia leaves inmates in dilapidated solitary confinement cells for months at a time.
A recently filed federal lawsuit suggests that inmates at one Georgia prison are subjected to such brutal conditions that self-injury and violence have become commonplace.
According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit was filed Friday against a dozen Department of Corrections officials. The complaint alleges that conditions at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville are so terrible that they violate inmates’ constitutional rights.
While the lawsuit was filed on behalf of three prisoners, it seeks class action status to “stop prison officials from isolating people in deplorable conditions.”
The Associated Press notes that the Georgia Department of Corrections’ solitary confinement policy is supposed to function as a nine-month “incentive program,” intended to encourage “appropriate adjustments.”
[writer’s note: while reportage suggests that this “incentive program” is meant to last nine months, this is most likely an unintentional mis-rendering of “nine days”]
The so-called incentive program is designed to return inmates to the general population.
However, the lawsuit claims that, in practice, some inmates have been held in solitary for far longer—months, or even years, “despite the serious health consequences of long-term solitary confinement.”
Men who are placed into isolation are locked into their cells 24 hours a day, and are allowed outside only for a limited number of showers, medical appointments, and legal visits.
While in solitary confinement, inmates cannot regularly speak with loved ones or socialize with fellow convicts.
The lawsuit suggests that Georgia State Prison’s isolation units are also in poor repair—some are infested by rats and cockroaches. They are also allegedly in a state of abject dilapidation: the isolation ward often smells of human feces, since only staff can control the flushing mechanism on prisoners’ toilets.
According to the inmates’ attorneys, the prison is also short-staffed—meaning that detainees in isolation often do not receive the few privileges to which they remain entitled.
Alison Ganem, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights—which filed the complaint alongside attorneys from KIlpatrik Townsend & Stockton—said prolonged stints in solitary are detrimental to inmates’ physical and mental health.
“People spend months or years in solitary confinement without access to the basic necessities of a dignified life, like sunshine, fresh air, clean living spaces, and mental health treatment,” Ganem said. “Without immediate action to address these unconstitutional and immoral conditions, more people are likely to die.”
The lawsuit, adds ABC-9, asks a federal judge to compel Georgia to improve conditions in solitary. It requests that prison officials make plans within the next 30 days to care for people who have mental illnesses or are experiencing mental health problems.