Category Archives: Dekalb County Jail

Mistreatment rife in Dekalb Jail; jail blocks calls to ABC phone

Atlanta Anarchist black cross has been speaking to people outside the DeKalb County Jail and receiving numerous phone calls from inmates and their family members revealing abusive conditions within the jail. Although the phone originally used to accept calls from prisoners was blocked by the jail system, ABC got a new number and has been receiving multiple calls since. They include complaints of inadequate and inedible food, a rampant mold infestation, a standard practice of medical neglect, and violence and retaliation by guards against people who make complaints.

One woman who spoke to ABC on May 17th said she had to call repeatedly to demand that her son receive medical care that he had been requesting; it was one or two months before he received care. She did not want to give her name because she feared reprisals by guards against her son if she speaks out against the abuse. “I wouldn’t want anything to happen to him… You got to protect your loved ones who are in there, the guards can do anything at all.”

Her fear is not without grounds; guards retaliated violently against the men who sparked protests after photos of them with handmade signs went viral in April are in solitary. their families were not able to hear from them for a month after the photos went viral. when one of them, Darnell Thompson, was able to finally get a postcard out, he reported that his solitary confinement will last until June 7th. Other inmates reported that the three were beat up and had their cell ransacked after the photos went viral.

Another mother told ABC that her son was beaten by guards.

A third mother who spoke to ABC also chose to remain anonymous. She said her son has been told that they are going to stop him receiving his medications for bipolar disorder. She does not know why.

A fourth mother also reported making numerous official complaints against the jail and the mental health staff for refusing to take her son’s mental issue seriously.

An inmate named Matthew Burkins called ABC on May 17th. He said that he began having pain in his chest while breathing a few days after he was brought to the jail. He suspected it was due to the mold infestation. He spent four weeks making a medical requests every day or every other day. He experienced delays in being seen and when he did go to the medical floor they just checked his vital signs and made sure they were within normal limits and then decided that he was okay and sent him back to his floor without treatment. Burkins also reported that it was not until six weeks after he arrived at the jail that he began receiving his regular prescribed medication. The jail staff kept saying that they were unable to verify his prescriptions. It was not until he put in a request at the kiosk saying that he was suicidal that he finally began receiving them; he has been doing much better since. Burkins also said the light is broken in his cell and in many others, meaning that he is not able to study and prepare for his upcoming court case. He has filed formal grievances, but he says, “the grievances don’t mean nothing, they [guards] can get away with murder and still be working the next day.”

Another inmate who called and identified himself just as Victor says his area is on lockdown for 21 hours a day, and he is only out on the floor from 11 am to 2 p.m. Victor also says that the food is inadequate. Breakfast might be oatmeal or grits, and lunch goulash or chicken patties, just a sandwich for dinner with nothing to drink. Victor was also concerned about retaliation for speaking out. He said, “a lot of people come up in here missing, a lot of people come up in here dead. Especially if they don’t got no family” outside to advocate for them.

On Wednesday May 15, a spirited demonstration took over Memorial Avenue. The original ABC phone number was announced for protesters who got arrested to call for assistance with bail, and for people already in the Dekalb jail to speak out about conditions. One of the police at the protest made a show of listening to the number, writing it down and then making a phone call. Less than a day later, that number was blocked by the jail so that no one inside could dial out to it.

Shortly after the beginning of the demonstration, heavily armed police made four violent arrests. Protesters were thrown to the ground and charged with disorderly conduct and blocking a street or sidewalk.

During the protest, people incarcerated in the jail were breaking windows and attempting to pass messages through the holes to the crowd below. One person tried to pass out food to show how moldy and inedible it was. Others shouted out of the holes, one saying that a correctional officer named King was choking someone whose hands were cuffed behind his back. Others put up signs in the windows for the protesters to read, one said I love U.

The next night, May 16, there was another loud demonstration. Protesters banged on drums outside the jail, while inmates banged on the windows to the beat. Police outnumbered protesters by a factor of about two. The sidewalks were lined with barricades. A new phone number not yet blocked by the jail was written in chalk on the sidewalk so that prisoners on that side of the jail would be able to see it–several who called had seen it that way. The number has also been circulating in the jail by word of mouth.

Protesters have decided to return each day with a table and literature to speak to people coming and going from the jail.

Protesters demand answers about DeKalb Jail abuses at county commissioners’ meeting

Members of Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross, the Street Groomers, and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee spoke at the DeKalb County commissioners’ meeting today about the abuses at the DeKalb jail.

During the public comment section Meg Dudukovich said, 
“I became involved in the protests about the inhuman conditions at the Dekalb County Jail after I saw a series of social media posts depicting men incarcerated there speaking out about abuses and showing the moldy food. Their signs said help us we dying, need food, and we sleep and breathe mold. I got in touch with the mother of one of the men who has been calling attention to the abuses on social media.  She says she has not been able to speak to her son since Sunday April 7, before her posts went viral. He is in solitary.  She has heard multiple reports from other men jailed there that her son & the other 2 men in the posts had their cell raided, were beaten, had their heads forced into toilets, and were thrown into solitary under the pretext that they had a cell phone, which is untrue–the photos were screenshots  from a permitted video visit. The mother of Darnell Thompson, one of the men in the posts, was unable to be here but sent these brief comments that I’m going to read now: ‘Why are inmates being stripped of their rights? My son, along with two other inmates, has been place in solitary confinement; their cells was swarmed and excessive force was used–for what reason? Produce evidence to show reason for the confinement. Since this post has went viral it is very evident that their reason for solitary confinement has been in retaliation; is it unlawful for inmates to take a stand for their rights to speak up against being subjected to abuse and inhumane conditions?  I want to know the physical condition of my son and the other inmates since their reported attacks by officers from several inmates as well as an investigation of every officer involved. (I received a tip that officer “Jones” was one of the attackers). Why are guards abusing their authority to use excessive force on inmates that lead up to physical impairment or death? What happened to funds that was disbursed to fix the air quality in the jail to remove mold and fix plumbing? Are you aware of the man y deaths that have occurred in Dekalb County Jail and no further investigations have been pursued to give justice to families of their loved ones? Why are inmates medical needs being neglected?'”

Later, Adele MacLean said, 
“After we heard about the viral social media posts of prisoners begging for help with the inhumane conditions in the Dekalb jail, we have been speaking to people who have been inside or had loved ones inside, and collecting stories of mistreatment and neglect. Lynn from Mothers of Sons in Prisons is here to support. Almost everyone with experience of the jail tells the same story: horrifying conditions and physical abuse. 
Every person who needs daily medication to survive or avoid serious health problems that we spoke to reported days-long delays in receiving their meds, or never got them at all. – my friend was denied the right to speak today, but he’s here. He ended up in the hospital because was denied his seizure meds for–how many days Haroun?–three days.- I spoke to a woman who went 3 days without her blood pressure meds. I asked did you get sick, she said, “Yeah I got sick! What do you think would happen?” – I spoke to a person in the jail two weeks ago who had just witnessed a diabetic man get ill after going without insulin. he says you have to request meds via the kiosk, which has a sign that says it can take a week for your request to be seen.  not processed, not addressed. there is no time frame posted for that. The other men imprisoned there had to shout at the guards to give him his insulin. I take daily medication, I imagine a lot of you do too. Any one of us could end up in there. Due to racial profiling and biased policing practices, some are at greater risk,  but any of us or our loved ones  could end up in there. For those of us who need meds, that could be a death sentence.   
Medical neglect is far from the only issue.  The outright abuse needs to be addressed. the extreme efforts to silence the men who spoke out in the social media posts shows the length they go to to keep these problems from coming to light. They are clear that speaking out will be met with severe punishment.  These brave men took their lives into their hands to bring our attention to these issues, so why are we still ignoring them? What has happened to these men? Why are they being held incommunicado? Why have their mothers been given no information about their whereabouts? Why has Malaya Tucker been banned from video visits with her son and anyone else?  Can you all speak to this? What do you plan to do? Are there going to be investigations into the allegations of abuse, or are we going to continue to allow the abusers to brutally suppress any criticism?”

The chairman of the commissioners said “now is the time for public comment only. Commissioners can speak during the time allotted for that if they choose to address the issues.” MacLean replied, “I would very much like it if you would ‘choose to address the issues'”.

After the activists stood up to leave one council member approached them and asked for their contact info, saying he would speak to the Sheriff and ask about procedures for investigating complaints. However he did not offer his own contact info or make an concrete promises to follow up other than that he would speak to the sheriff.

Groups involved in protest plan to continue tabling and speaking to people outside the jail, and a public meeting is planned for April 27 at 6 pm at the Little Five Points Community Center on the third floor. Protesters plan a large demonstration for ‘fuk 12’ week, the week of May 12-18.  

Brother of Prisoner who spoke out about Dekalb Jail abuses also reports abuses

Malaya Tucker is anxiously awaiting news of her son Darnell. She is told he is in solitary confinement after having been beaten by jail guards. She has not been able to contact him since their video visit on Sunday, in which he showed her moldy food trays with insufficient food. Screenshots taken from another video visit went viral on social media on Wednesday. On Thursday, guards reportedly entered Darnell’s cell and beat him up. They put him in solitary confinement, claiming they found a contraband cell phone. This cut him off from communication with the outside.

Mrs. Tucker received news of her son from her other son, Larnell. He is also in DeKalb County Jail due to an administrative error that left an arrest warrant in effect after it had been lifted.

Larnell called his mother from the 6th floor of the jail on Saturday, and she connected him with Atlanta ABC. Larnell was willing to risk being abused himself in order to go public about the inhumane conditions. He said that another inmate who had been transferred from his brother’s floor told him today that his brother had been “jumped” by guards again. He does not know how badly hurt Darnell is.

He also described a case of medical neglect of a diabetic person. Diabetics are not given access to their insulin upon being jailed. Each person has to request it via “health request” on the jail kiosk. A notice says “it can take up to 7 days for your request to be seen”. Larnell witnessed an inmate fall ill from going too long without insulin. It was only when other inmates gathered and began yelling at the guards to give the man his medicine that he was brought downstairs to a medical facility.

Larnell also said there was mold in the food today. He was given food with black and white mold in the noodles and meat. There was so much mold that all of the food was inedible, he reported. “I threw my whole tray away… everybody threw their tray away.” Larnell says another inmate filed a report about the moldy food and held onto his tray so he could show it to someone on the outside next time he had a video visit. While we were talking on the phone, officers came up to the floor to look at the moldy food. Then 11 officers took out tazers and told everyone to get in their cells (Larnell was allowed to stay talking on the phone). The man who reported the food was surrounded by guards outside his cell as they aimed tazers at him, ordering him to get inside his cell. They took the food tray away, but refused to give him a new tray as he requested.

Larnell also reported an infestation of black mold and flies in the showers. “I have to keep a sheet under my door to keep flies out”. He sleeps with just a wool blanket.

Why is Larnell in jail? He says he has a “failure to appear” but he went to court for it in January, and the judge ruled that the warrant would be lifted if Larnell went to pretrial services once a month. But before he could report to pretrial, he was arrested for the same warrant. Now he has been waiting in jail for a month for the courts to fix their administrative error. He says he has called the office of the Public Defender every day and has never talked to the lawyer.

I asked, “are you willing to go public, knowing what your brother has gone through and the risk you’re taking?” Larnell said, “I am because this is ridiculous”.