Families Tell Stories Of Deaths, Lockdowns At Cobb County Jail

Alexis Sumbry says her boyfriend has not received mental health medication in months while in custody at Cobb County jail.
Alexis Sumbry says her boyfriend has not received mental health medication in months while in custody at Cobb County jail.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE
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Former inmates and the families of people incarcerated at the Cobb County jail are speaking out against conditions at the facility. Seven people have died in the jail’s custody over the past year, and inmates have complained of long-term lockdown.

Don Emory was one of many speakers at a packed Cobb County church Monday night with more questions than answers. In March, the Cobb County jail told him his son Bradley had tried to commit suicide while in custody. He rushed to the hospital.

“So I walked in the room, and my son, he’s laying there. He’s on ventilators, he’s on breathing machines, he’s leaking blood out of his mouth,” Emory said.

His son died, and Emory wants to know why the 33-year-old wasn’t being monitored, despite his having warned the jail that his son was suicidal.

Alexis Sumbry says her boyfriend has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and hasn’t had adequate mental health treatment in months.

“During this lockdown, he wasn’t given his medication, so he went through a whole different type of mental deterioration.”

Attorney Timothy Gardner and his client Tiffany Wingo
Attorney Timothy Gardner spoke at the church Monday. He’s with his client Tiffany Wingo, whose brother, Kevil Wingo, died in Cobb County jail custody in September. (Credit: Lisa Hagen/WABE)

Inmates and lawyers say a lockdown began at the jail in late September. They say inmates were denied hygiene products and restricted to their cells for more than 23 hours a day. The lockdown reportedly started after inmates attacked jail deputies. The Cobb County sheriff’s office has told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a monthlong lockdown had occurred, but people released from custody as recently as this weekend say it’s ongoing.

“Why are we guessing how long the lockdown has been in place? Why are we guessing what groups are on lockdown?” asked Timothy Gardner, the family attorney of another inmate, Kevil Wingo, who died in custody in September. “That makes no sense, why is there all this mystery?”

The ACLU of Georgia says it has asked Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren for records relating to all the recent deaths as well as other inmate complaints. The sheriff’s office did not respond to WABE’s requests for comment, but in media reports has denied that alleged staffing shortages have led to the lockdown conditions and deaths.