A $200-million lawsuit was filed last Friday as a total of eight current and former Macon County Jail inmates are making allegations of abuse and inhumane treatment.
Attorney Phil Georges is attempting to get $25 million for each of the eight inmates.
“There’s so many other violations ongoing,” Georges said. “There’s obviously a prolific problem at this jail.”
The lawsuit is against the Macon County Sheriff’s Department, the Macon County Jail, Macon County, Macon County Sheriff Mark Gammons, Macon County Jail Administrator Scotty Sutton, Macon County Assistant Jail Administrator Jeff Wilson, Tennessee Commissioner of Corrections Tony Parker, former Macon County Jail corrections officer Kim Summers and Tennessee Corrections Institute Executive Director William Wall.
“This falls back on the state of Tennessee,” Georges said of the condition of the jail. “They’re supposed to be certifying. They’re supposed to be having people come out.”
Earlier this year, lead plantiff — Gallatin’s Jonathan Scott Brown — brought a federal form that was reviewed by Chief District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., who is part of the Middle District Federal Court in Nashville.
The form alleged cruel and unusual punishment during February of 2020, violations of the Eighth Amendment and 14th Amendment.
It was assigned for Crenshaw to review, who reviews it for multiple reasons (including the nature of the allegations). Crenshaw indicated that there was enough information there to where that if Brown’s allegations are true, there is sufficient evidence to proceed. However, according to Georges, Crenshaw encouraged Brown to seek an attorney for assisstance with the process of filing the grievance.
“He needed an attorney in order to bring the violations with the proper organizations listed,” Georges said. “This is a common thing. It’s common to see prisoners file these types of claims that are reviewed by the judges. What changed about this is Crenshaw’s own validation to say that there’s sufficient evidence to move forward.
“We started our own investigation. It led to us finding seven other individuals who were in the room too.”
Of the eight inmates that Georges is representing, four of them have been released (including Brown), one is another facility and three remain in the Macon County Jail. In addition to Brown, the other seven individuals are Lafayette’s Levi Mullins, Lafayette’s Kevin Harrison, Westmoreland’s Lucas Tracy, Hartsville’s Timothy Mann, Utah’s Roy Gardner, Lafayette’s William Rowe and Red Boiling Springs resident Shawn Feinstein.
The lawsuit states, “The complaints illustrated in this first amended complaint show a complete and utter disregard for sanitation and the elements that are required to get the proper detention center certification necessary to satisfy state requirements. The uninhabitable or unfit for decent habitation environment these plaintiffs experienced were despicable, ongoing and should be addressed and alleviated in a timely manner as there are still individuals that are forced to live in the conditions depicted in this first amended complaint. The complete and utter disregard for the rules and regulations set forth in many legal cannons that define not only the preservation of our liberties and freedoms but also dictate in detail minimum requirements the defendant facility should adhere to in day-to-day operations are simply ignored in the management of operations at the defendant facility.”
Georges claims to have seen many of the issues first-hand.
“I visited the jail myself in person,” Georges said. “I saw conditions I was disgusted by, conditions I’ve never seen before.”
The lawsuit continues by communicating, “They are human beings and as such deserve to be treated in a humane manner. Preservation of certain liberties are not convoluted and are simply common sense. In the United States, many of our fundamental cannons by which laws, codes, and procedures are based on are on a layman basis. The treatment detailed in this first amended complaint shows a complete lack of concern for the human beings the respective detention facility is there to serve. The treatment is more like a war-prisoner situation rather than a civilized society’s detention facility. Plaintiffs were indeed treated like animals, housed like swine in a barn, and treated so poorly they have suffered long-term mental capacity damages that only passage of time can dictate the healing of if that is even possible.”
Among the grievances were overcrowded rooms, lack of access to bathrooms and lack of access to running water.
“Through testimony and other things, we have evidence that these things are not being provided,” Georges said. “The Tennessee Correctional Office not only oversees the standards but they are required to certify (the facility).”
Georges said that he recently met with four of the inmates on an attorney’s visit in the jail’s multi-purpose room (MPR).
“That’s not supposed to house anybody … that’s not what it’s designed for,” Georges said. “The tiles are coming up off the floor. It was a dirty, dingy room. There were so many things that could be used as weapons. They were telling me about the room and circumstances. They were telling me about the room when they were in there for 40 days.”
Georges said that one of the inmates claims that he was sleeping under the stairs in a pod, and he said that he saw while he was there a drain in the center of the isolation room where they had to use the bathroom. The lawsuit states that the inmates would sometimes urinate into a milk jug and defecate into a trash bag.
“One of them told me they were in pod 1 and that they were sleeping under the stairs,” Georges said. “In that room (pod 1), there are 20 guys, and three of the four toilets were broken. There was only one working toilet.
“In the isolation room, he said that there’s a hole in the center of the room where we have to (defecate).”
Georges said that he has also spoken with a former corrections officer at the jail.
“He confirmed the conditions that took place there,” Georges said. “He confirmed that these people were placed in this MPR room, without access to these basic needs they’re supposed to have.
“He took his cell phone and videoed about a five or eight-second clip of the guys. One of them was holding up the sign saying he needed to use the bathroom. It (the video) shows how many people were in the room.”
Georges said that now that the lawsuit is filed, a judge will review it again and then certify it, and the people who are named in the lawsuit will be served before the remainder of the process ensues.
Gammons declined to comment on the lawsuit.