Civil Rights groups file federal lawsuit over Clayton Jail coronavirus measures

Attorneys representing four detainees at the Clayton County Jail have filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Victor Hill alleging he has "done little" to protect people inside from coronavirus.

"This is a jail where you have cancer survivors and other people in fragile health crammed three to a two-person cell, wearing pieces of torn underpants over their faces," said Sarah Geraghty, managing attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The lawsuit, filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia, claims Hill and four other top jail officials have violated the detainees' 8th Amendment right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Inmates at the Clayton County jail. (FOX 5)

As of June 11, according to the legal filing, 45 people inside the jail, including 13 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. They argue jails "pose unique risks for the spread of the disease," because inmates share living space, toilets, showers, and other equipment that is not frequently sanitized.

"For most detainees, the sum total of Defendants’ prevention effort has been to tell detainees to use a towel, t-shirt, sock, or underwear as a makeshift facemask, and to limit some (but not all) out-of-cell time to groups of 12 people," the lawsuit states.

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They do note that some masks were distributed in June.

The plaintiffs hope a judge will order Sheriff Hill to release or transfer anyone considered "high risk" for the virus.

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"The people who are in custody are fathers and daughters and sisters and brothers and they have loved ones and family members, myself included, who care about their safety and well-being and don't want them to die while they are in custody," explained Kosha Tucker, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia.

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