Sen. Jon Ossoff asks Attorney General for investigation into Clayton County jail
Georgia's U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff said on Wednesday that he is calling for Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch a Department of Justice investigation into the mistreatment of inmates at a Clayton County jail.
Ossoff, who chairs the Senate's Human Rights Subcommittee, requested that the DOJ honor its obligation under the Civil Rights of Initialized Persons Act and investigate the happenings at a Clayton County Jail.
His decision to call for an investigation into the jail comes after several local news stations reported on the "harrowing stories of troubling conditions within Clayton County's Jail, leading to the death of several inmates," per a Sept.13 statement.
Local news stations around Georgia have reported on the following issues within the Clayton County jail:
- Inmates dying within days of arrival at the jail following an altercation with other inmates
- Inadequate and unhygienic living conditions, medical neglect, malnourishment, and physical abuse while incarcerated, per Clayton County Medical Examiner’s Office Director Brian Byars
Last year, the DOJ prosecuted former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill for violating the civil rights of those in his custody at the jail. Hill was imprisoned for a year and a half starting in March 2023 for strapping detainees into restraint chairs for hours.
Ossoff mentions in the letter that since the prosecution of Hill, his office continues to receive reports of the ongoing issues from the same jail Hill led.
"One month after the former sheriff's conviction, Terry Thurmond was booked into Clayton County Jail and died one day later," Sen. Ossoff wrote. "The 38-year-old man struggled with bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia—a fact the jail failed to document—and tried to jump from a second-story ledge before inmates and jailers pulled him back."
He adds, "During the subsequent struggle, officers shocked Mr. Thurmond with a stun gun and left him lifeless for 20 minutes before emergency medical officials arrived, according to a medical examiner's report ruling his death a homicide."
As a senator, Ossoff has prioritized Congressional investigations for jails and prisons nationwide after reported cases of abuse and neglect. He has also aimed to ensure correctional facilities have the means to access proper security systems and surveillance of activities.
In April, he launched an inquiry to improve the supervision of jails and prisons with reported cases of brutality and abuse following deaths two instances reported from Georgia's Fulton County Jail and Indiana's Jackson County Jail.
Last year, Ossoff’s legislation, the Prison Camera Reform Act, providing upgrades to broken security camera systems in Federal prisons around the country, became a law.
"I've led multiple investigations of crime and corruption in Federal prisons, and broken prison camera systems are enabling corruption, misconduct, and abuse," Sen. Ossoff said in a December 2022 statement.
Also last year, Ossoff led several bipartisan investigations into abuse and misconduct in U.S. prisons and jails, including an 8-month investigation into the sexual abuse of women in federal prisons.
The investigation revealed that "Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees sexually abused female prisoners in at least two-thirds of federal prisons that have held women over the past decade, and that the BOP has failed to prevent, detect, and stop recurring sexual abuse, including by senior prison officials," per a December 2022 press release.
With his request for an investigation into Clayton County's jail, Ossoff ended his inquiry to Garland by stating that an investigation into the jail could stop the onslaught of inmate deaths and improve the trust in the jail's system.
He wrote: "There appears to be a pattern and practice of civil rights violations in this jail that result in preventable deaths and jeopardize public trust. As one detainee told a reporter earlier this year: 'We need somebody to come in here and see about this. The Department of Justice, somebody needs to come.' I echo this detainee's call and ask for your assistance."