RUTLEDGE, Tenn. (CN) - A rural Tennessee jail kept three men in inhumane conditions, making them sleep on the floor next to a leaking toilet, they claim in court.
Daniel Farrow, Dewey Hinds and Tyler Swanson sued Grainger County, Tenn. and county officials for negligence, infliction of emotional distress and civil rights violations.
The three men say they were subject to "sub-human conditions" while detained in the Grainger County jail, including being placed in the "drunk tank" - a cell with no sink, toilet, bed or lights - and "the dark hole," a room with no light or ventilation, two beds for four inmates, and a leaking toilet.
"At all times, two of the occupants of 'the dark hole' were required to sleep on the floor because 'the dark hole' contained an insufficient number of beds for the number of persons housed in it," the complaint states. "The floor was often covered with overflow, including human waste, from the improperly functioning toilets."
The "dark hole" toilet problems were so bad that feces would "shoot out of the toilet" when another one down the hall was flushed, according to the complaint.
The three inmates claim they were only allowed to shower and exercise once a week.
When Hinds asked to be moved to a cell with working plumbing, a guard threatened to "shoot him in the face with a Taser," the complaint states.
"By law, jails are required to provide the inmates with sufficient ventilation and sewerage for the comfort and safety of those confined," the lawsuit states. State law also requires light in sleeping areas of jails.
Hinds, who is illiterate, says that a pro se lawsuit he filed over the jail conditions was dismissed because guards opened his mail and shredded his legal papers.
"The guards effectively deprived him of access to the court because they placed him in a position where he had no cellmate to read or write for him and his ability to communicate with a lawyer was obstructed by the guards so as to completely cut Mr. Hinds off from his legal remedies and ensure that outsiders would not look too closely at the jail conditions," the complaint states.
Swanson says he was denied medical treatment for Hepatitis C while he was confined in the drunk tank. Farrow alleges he was falsely arrested in the first place.
Farrow, Hinds and Swanson seek $41.4 million in compensatory and punitive damages. They also want an outside contractor to review jail conditions and a reduction in the inmate population.
The three men are represented by Troy Bowlin II in Morristown, Tenn.
Grainger County has a population of 22,000. The county jail has a maximum capacity of 78 male and 22 female inmates, with an operating budget just north of $1 million, according to the lawsuit.
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