Former inmates to discuss Cobb jail conditions at 2nd public forum

File Photo: The Cobb County Adult Detention Center.
File Photo: The Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

Several community and civil rights organizations will host a second town meeting Tuesday to discuss what they describe as unacceptable conditions at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at Zion Baptist Church at 165 Lemon Street in Marietta. Organizations participating in the town hall include the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, Cobb County NAACP and Cobb County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Town hall organizers and attendees will hear from family members or friends of people who were detained at the facility, as well as former inmates.

The deaths, along with a month-long lockdown, have sparked criticism from residents and families, local activists and civil rights organizations, which are calling on Sheriff Neil Warren to address their concerns about medical care for inmates and jail staffing levels.

Tuesday’s town hall meeting will come a week after the Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office released the cause of death of Kevil Wingo, one of seven inmates who died since December 2018 while in-custody at the Adult Detention Center.

RELATEDCobb inmate who asked for medical attention died in isolation cell

Wingo, who was undergoing a detox in the jail’s infirmary, died from complications of a perforated ulcer. According to a Cobb County Medical Examiner’s report, Wingo made multiple requests for medical attention before he was moved into an isolation cell where he was found unresponsive. He was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

Andrea Young, executive director of ACLU Georgia, said Tuesday’s town hall will be a listening session for an issue that has touched the lives of many Cobb County residents.

“This is something that is, across the board, impacting people in all segments of the Cobb County community,” she said.

The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment about the upcoming town hall meeting.

The controversy surrounding the Adult Detention Center was on the minds of two residents who expressed their concerns to Marietta City Council members about its decision to approve a seven-year contract with the Sheriff’s Office to continue housing its inmates at the jail. Councilman Reggie Copeland was the lone dissenter in the vote.

Dr. Ben Williams, president of the Cobb SCLC, said there are some “serious concerns” with the city’s vendor. Sally Riddle, who spoke on behalf of the Cobb County Coalition for Public Safety, said the city of Marietta’s reputation is at stake since it chose to house its inmates at the Cobb facility.

The new contract calls for Marietta to pay the Sheriff’s Office $69 per inmate per day, which is a decrease from $73.90 it paid in the previous contract.

READDespite 7 deaths, Marietta will continue housing inmates at Cobb jail

In 2019, the city had 286 inmates who were housed at the Adult Detention Center, said Marietta police spokesman Chuck McPhilamy.

City Councilman Andy Morris, who is a bailiff at the Cobb County courthouse, said it’s hard to make generalized assumptions about the jail if one doesn’t know the circumstances surrounding an inmate’s death.

Mayor Steve Tumlin said the city does not have the space to house its own inmates. However, he did say residents who are talking about the Adult Detention Center “have gotten the word about” about the situation.

“Whether or not they get the particular action (they want), this does not fall on deaf ears,” Tumlin said.

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