“We are beyond the crisis point and something needs to change,” Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer for the Southern Center for Human Rights told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a recent interview.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to spread through the system. More than 3,200 inmates have been infected so far. Eighty-eight have died. Roughly 1,500 employees have tested positive.
Coffee, which has a current population of just more than 2,600, has reported 235 cases resulting in five deaths. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those figures are likely 10 times below the actual number of infections.
“This number absolutely misrepresents the scope of the spread of COVID-19 in Coffee County,” Woodall said. “The correctional facility has refused to test many people with symptoms and those exposed to the virus. So not only do correctional officials not actually know the number of individuals who’ve contracted COVID-19, but they also have no means of trying to keep those on the inside safe.”
At Coffee, inmates sleep shoulder to shoulder in dormitories, separated by a mere 18 inches, the NAACP lawsuit claims. Testing is performed infrequently and only for those who exhibit symptoms of the virus, it says.
Defendants Wesley Brown, 39, Donald Futch, 56 and Franklin Simmons, 67, “face a substantial risk of serious harm and/or death without this Court’s intervention,” the lawsuit states.
About 60% of Georgia’s prison population is Black, “a group which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” the NAACP notes.