Federal officials sue Terrell County - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Federal officials sue Terrell County

June 8, 2004

Dawson-- It's been nearly a decade since the U. S. Justice Department first visited the Terrell County Jail.

Allegations arose of inmate's rights being violated. Federal officials charged the jail was run down and not being managed properly. Many improvements have been made since then, but it is apparently not enough.

Our cameras went inside the Terrell County Jail. The 50-year-old facility appeared clean enough, but inmates complained they weren't getting medical attention.

We can't show their faces, but one man says he injured his foot three days ago and has been denied medical care. "They get the medical attention, we don't deny anyone medical attention," said Sheriff John Bowens.

Inadequate medical care at the Terrell County Jail has been one of the more serious complaints by the Justice Department. "We have done all the improvement they have told us to do, and every time they come it is something different, so I guess a new facility is going to be what they want," said County Commission Chairman Wilbur T. Gamble.

"In the times they have come and inspected the jail on almost every occasion 80% of the infractions had nothing to do with the physical facilities but rather the way the jail was run."

The County Commission was asked several weeks ago by the Justice Department to write a letter of intent to build a new jail. "It would have implied we would do it according to the Justice Department's wishes," Gamble said.

The commission refused to do it. "It is certainly not a good time for us to build a new jail. There are a lot of things we need a lot worse in this county."

Gamble says the county will defend their position in federal court. It could cost several million dollars for a new jail. Gamble says the only way to pay for it is with a new penny tax, but that wouldn't happen until next year.

posted at 6:00PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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