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Lawsuit Alleges South Fulton Jail Confines Female Inmates With Mental Illness

The Southern Center for Human Rights said it notified the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office of the situation at the South Fulton jail last year, but that conditions have failed to improve.
The Southern Center for Human Rights said it notified the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office of the situation at the South Fulton jail last year, but that conditions have failed to improve.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press
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Disability-rights advocates are suing the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office over its treatment of female inmates with mental illness at the South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail in Union City.

The suit alleges those inmates spend much of their time in unsanitary solitary confinement units and don’t get the same access treatment services as men.

It was filed in federal court in Atlanta on Wednesday by the Georgia Advocacy Office, which advocates for people with disabilities and mental illness, and two inmates at the jail.

“Its unacceptable to be isolating people with severe psychiatric disabilities in solitary confinement,” said Hannah Riley with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which is representing the inmate plaintiffs.

The lawsuit says women who struggle with mental health issues at the jail are placed in solitary confinement in “mental health pods” as treatment, which often makes their conditions worse.

Riley said many of those women, like the two inmates identified in the suit, have been charged with low-level misdemeanors and remain in jail because they can’t afford to pay bond and have been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

At the same time, the suit alleges male inmates with the same mental health issues are offered treatment in the Fulton County jail system.

“Men who are experiencing the same psychiatric disabilities have access to this therapeutic environment where as women are put into solitary confinement for 23 hours a day,” Riley said.

The Southern Center for Human Rights said it notified the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office of the situation at the South Fulton jail last year, but that conditions have failed to improve.

The lawsuit asks a judge to order the sheriff’s office to stop it’s practices at the jail and  seeks class-action status for the female inmates.

A spokesperson for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment citing the pending litigation.