The Georgia NAACP has filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and a contractor on behalf of three Coffee County prisoners over allegations of inadequate COVID-19 testing, lack of safety protocols during the pandemic.
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The Georgia NAACP has filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and a contractor on behalf of three Coffee County prisoners over allegations of inadequate COVID-19 testing, lack of safety protocols during the pandemic.
Credit: Ichigo121212/Pixabay

The Georgia NAACP claims in a federal lawsuit that Georgia prison inmates are unreasonably exposed to COVID-19 because the staff does not follow safety protocols and provides inadequate testing and protective equipment for prisoners.

The U.S. District Court lawsuit, filed in Atlanta against the Georgia Department of Corrections and a contractor on behalf of three inmates, singles out the Coffee County Correctional Facility, which has reported the most infected inmates in the state’s prison system.

The lawsuit says many prisoners are sleeping too close to each other without masks and that inmates with symptoms often are not getting tested. According to the corrections department, 235 Coffee County inmates have tested positive and the facility has had five COVID-19 related deaths. 

The suit also names CoreCivic as a defendant, the Tennessee-based private contractor that runs the Coffee prison where it oversees roughly 2,600 inmates.

The NAACP also says that in addition to COVID exposure, black mold and water leaks inside the south Georgia facility pose a health risk.

“The health of prisoners at Coffee County are continually being disregarded by the prison administration and GDOC officials,” said Rev. James Woodall, state president of the Georgia NAACP. “We have exhausted every avenue to resolve these issues after twelve months of the pandemic and now see no other choice but to seek immediate relief from the courts.” 

The NAACP asks a federal judge to require that CoreCivic and the corrections department adhere to COVID-19 protocols, including adequate social distancing, providing enough face coverings and increasing testing. 

A corrections department spokeswoman said the department wouldn’t comment on pending litigation. 

The corrections department says on its website that it follows public health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and lists various protocols, including visitation restrictions, screening inmates and staff and increased sanitary practices.

CoreCivic did not immediately respond to an email  requesting comment on the lawsuit. A spokesman previously told the Georgia Recorder the company has been following its COVID mitigation plan and public health authorities’ guidance even before the first reported infections at its detention centers.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Georgia Recorder.