Civil rights groups suing Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill over COVID-19 protections

Civil rights groups on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, alleging the department is failing to protect people from COVID-19 in the south metro Atlanta community’s jail.

The legal action, filed as putative class action in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, said Sheriff Victor Hill and his staff have not done enough to protect detainees at the Clayton County Jail. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four people incarcerated at the jail.

The groups said that according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 45 people at the jail had tested positive for the coronavirus -- including 13 members of jail staff -- as of June 11.

“People detained in jails are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the close spaces in which they are confined, the shared use of facilities without adequate sanitation or effective personal protective equipment, and the absence of adequate medical care to address or treat the spread of infection,” said Kosha Tucker, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, one of the group’s filing the lawsuit.

Alan Parker, a legal advisor for the Clayton Sheriff’s Office, denied the jail faced a COVID-19 outbreak.

“ As the legal advisor for the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, I have reviewed the allegations in the lawsuit, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit in a court of law, not in the press,” he said in a post to the Sheriff’s Office Nixle webpage.

The other organizations suing the Sheriff’s Office are the Southern Center for Human Rights and the ACLU’s national office.

The Southern Center and the ACLU of Georgia had filed an earlier lawsuit in May against the sheriff's office for allegedly violating open records laws. The groups said the jail did not provide COVID-19 test numbers as requested.