Punishment and Poor Medical Care At Atlanta’s City Jail, Advocates Say

Estrella Sanchez, who was detained at Atlanta City Detention Center, calls for the facility to be shut down.
Estrella Sanchez, who was detained at Atlanta City Detention Center, calls for the facility to be shut down.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE

Human rights groups say immigrant detainees face inhumane conditions in Atlanta’s city jail and are calling on the mayor to shut down the facility.

People being held at the Atlanta City Detention Center are often denied adequate medical and mental health care according to a report released today on conditions there.

Kevin Caron of Georgia Detention Watch says detainees he interviewed say they feared being punished for requesting help with their mental health.

“They told an official, and they were put in solitary confinement for simply indicating that they had and were suffering from mental illness,” Caron said outside the detention center Monday.

The report describes an overuse of “segregation for disciplinary reasons,” along with failures to provide prescribed medications and violations of detainees religious freedoms.

It also highlights the 2017 death of Atul Kumar Babubhai Patel, who died of heart failure at Grady Memorial Hospital after being detained at the detention center.

Azadeh Shahshahani with the advocacy group Project South called on Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to take action.

“We are asking her and the city to stop detaining immigrants for [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] permanently. And we are asking for the Atlanta City Detention Center to be shut down,” said Shahshahani.

The report on comes as Mayor Bottoms is considering whether to end the city’s longtime contract with U-S Marshals Service. The mayor temporarily stopped accepting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees in June, in response to the Trump administration’s then-policy of family separation.

Bottoms has said she worries detainees might face even worse conditions if sent to facilities outside Atlanta.

The mayor’s office says it has not received the report, but is moving ahead with its Advisory Council on Immigration Detention. There were 98 ICE detainees in custody at Atlanta’s detention center as of last month.