July 28, 2020

Civil Rights Group Pushing Clayton County Jail to Address Alleged COVID-19 Cases

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By Leon Stafford | Atlanta Journal-Constitution | July 28, 2020

Civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit Monday asking the courts to force the Clayton County Jail to address an alleged coronavirus outbreak.

The Southern Center for Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief in their lawsuit against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill to push him to take immediate steps at the jail “to prevent and mitigate the spread of the highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19.”

The organizations said at least 72 detainees at the jail have tested positive for coronavirus as well as around 13 members of the facility’s staff.

“Everyone working at or living in the Clayton County Jail is now at risk of serious illness, or even death for those who are most medically vulnerable,” Dr. Fred Rottnek, former medical director of the St. Louis County Jail, was quoted as saying in a release.. “The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office should take corrective action immediately in order to decrease the substantial risk of serious harm to detainees, staff, and the community at large.”

The Southern Center and the ACLU organizations have been in a battle with Hill and the Clayton County jail for months over access to coronavirus testing information and efforts to address conditions that spread the disease. The civil rights group filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office in May alleging failure to follow open records laws. The groups filed a second lawsuit against the office earlier this month alleging it failed to keep inmates safe from COVID-19.

Alan Parker, a legal advisor for the Clayton Sheriff’s Office, has denied there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the jail. In a statement posted earlier this month to the Sheriff’s Office Nixle page, he wrote, “As the legal advisor for the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, I have reviewed the allegations in the lawsuit, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit in a court of law, not in the press.”

Civil rights groups filed preliminary injunction Monday in battle with Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill.