Saturday, July 25, 2009

2007- Valdosta/Lowndes County Jail, No Phone, Medication Problems, denied food, No privacy for women, mold, filty walls, keep people hole

Valdosta-Lowndes County Jail, State of the ACLU, Leigh Touchton a WHITE FEMALE gives her report!,

Submitted by gbrhynes007-2 on Fri, 2007-03-23 13:20. Lowndes County Jail and Where are Elected Officials?

LEIGH TOUCHTON LETTER TO THE ACLU FOLLOWING HER ARREST BY VALDOSTA CITY MAYOR AND COUNCIL ON MAY 5, 2005

HER TRUTH (NOT HER STORY)
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“My name is Leigh Touchton, I am the former President of the local Valdosta branch of the NAACP. I am the first white woman to lead a branch of the NAACP. I have corresponded with the Georgia ACLU previously about the Lowndes County Jail. Last Thursday night, 15 of us refused to move from the podium of the Valdosta City Council over a civil rights issue. We were arrested and taken to the Lowndes County Jail. I was personally subjected to the following:

1. I was not allowed to make a phone call when I was booked. My case number, which is the PIN number for making phone calls out of the cell, was blacked out on the receipt paper that I was given by a sadistic female guard named Giddens, or Giddings, a white female guard. I was not allowed to call family in order to have my prescribed medicines brought to me until 20 hours after I was booked. I missed two doses of my medicine and almost passed out. Two woman with me were also not allowed to make a phone call either and were on prescribed medicine. Two of us received our medicines 20 hours after our booking, one woman never received hers. We were all bonded out approx. 24 hours after we were arrested. I was told that if you are arrested on a Friday, you will not be bonded out until Monday. 4. I was denied any food for the first 13 hours of my incarceration (from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. the next morning). Male protesters arrested with us were given dinner. The phones in the cell block did not work properly. The inmates had to stand at the phone for hours trying to get a line to go out. Many inmates were locked into their rooms for the night before getting a phone call to go out. I was one of those inmates.

2. I was not given a towel or a comb. The sink in my room did not work. I was locked in my room for over 6 hours without access to drinking water. I saw many female inmates with dirty, stinking jumpsuits that they had been issued upon their arrival but were not allowed to send to the laundry. One woman told me she had been wearing hers for over a month. I saw many female inmates washing their underclothes and tee-shirts and boxer shorts in the toilet for lack of a place to wash them. The holding cell that I was placed in upon arrival (for 3 hours) had two non-functional toilets filled with human waste.

3. There were trays of spoiled food in the holding cell that had been there for days. The milk I was given in the morning (at 5:00 a.m.) was spoiled. Thirty other inmates from another cell block reported spoiled milk. The milk was warm and had obviously not been refrigerated for several hours. I was given breakfast and lunch. There were no fresh fruits or vegetables or whole grains available at either of these meals. There was no fruit juice available. There were no vitamins or calcium supplements or iron supplements available. I was told that I could not have Tylenol or Advil for my headache without filling out a pill call form and it would take 3 days to receive the pills. I was told that I was limited to two Tylenol pills per week. I was on my period and was not able to receive any sanitary items until 16 hours after I was incarcerated. I had menstrual wastes running down my legs the entire 16 hours because the toilet paper I tried to use would not stay in place. I was told that I had to purchase tampons but that the next available purchase would not arrive until I had been in jail 7 days. I was forced to sleep on the floor in a modified hospital stretcher. I saw at least 15 other women also sleeping on the floor. I was told that every room had women sleeping on the floor. One window in my non-air conditioned, non-heated room was rusted closed and would not open. One was rusted open and would not shut. Both windows were approx. 4 inches by 30 inches in dimensions. The temperature outside went down to approx. 50 degrees the night I was incarcerated and I had to sleep under an open window. I had only my jumpsuit and one blanket and it did not keep me warm. My cellmates reported that during the summer when south Georgia temperatures reach into the 100's, that women strip down to their underwear, wet their towels in the sink or in my room, the toilet, and lay the wet towels across their bodies to keep from getting heat stroke. Towels can only go to the laundry once a week. We believe that a male inmate named Sonny Graham died of heat stroke. We believe that a female inmate also died of heat stroke. I was incarcerated with women who saw her die and their descriptions sound like heat stroke (I'm a biology professor with some medical training). The mattress was less than one inch thick and flattened to approx. one-half inch. The dimensions of the "boat" were so narrow and so short that many tall or heavy women could not fit in them.

4. The arraignment holding cell where I was taken with approx. 20 other women had one bench where 5 women could sit, the rest had to sit on the floor. At one point, when there were 20 of us in the holding cell waiting to be arraigned, it was standing room only. There was a 70-year-old woman who had to stand up for 3 hours. There was a pregnant woman with us who had been in the cell for 7 hours without access to any food, either brought to her at regular mealtimes, or access to her commissary items. We were kept in the holding cell, waiting to be arraigned, for almost 4 hours. I was told that when prisoners are locked into their rooms at night, that no guard comes to check on them until 5:00 the next morning when Kool-Aid and milk arrive. I stayed awake all night. A female guard came about 2:00 a.m. and counted us in our beds. The next morning the other inmates told me that it was the first time a guard had come to check during the night "for weeks". There were four sets of doors between us and the guards' station. There were several hundred feet between us and the guards' station. Had someone had a medical emergency, or if a crazy inmate had started a fire, there would have been no way for the guards to have heard our cries for help. The doors are solid metal, there is no passageway for air or sound.

5. There is no air-conditioning and no fan in any prisoner room. There is one large fan in the common area. The common area does not have enough benches for all the women to sit down at one time. All books and magazines are banned except the Bible and Koran. The commissary prices are outrageous. Many prisoners must supplement their diets with commissary items. They are only allowed to spend $55 per week. They must purchase their own socks, underwear, bras, tee-shirts, and shorts. But they must wear their jumpsuits in the common areas and hallways, but they never get to wash their jumpsuits! I was allowed to keep my underwear and bra that I was wearing. I was told that it would be 7 days before I could purchase any underwear. Many women go without bras and underwear. Pregnant women are given a different tray of food that does have a fresh orange, but I could not see any different treatment. I was asked whether I was pregnant when I arrived. I was not asked about tuberculosis or checked for lice. I was told that women who come in "off the streets" with obvious lice infestations and communicable diseases are not separated from the general population and no one is "de-loused". I saw a pregnant woman fall down the stairs in our block. She was lucky she did not hit her head. She received no medical attention.

6. A diabetic woman who was arrested with me received no different medical or nutritional items than the rest of us. We kept telling the guards that she was diabetic and the sadistic female guard, Giddens, kept telling us that dinner was over. I kept saying she is going to go into a coma! They finally brought her a bag lunch about 3 hours after we had been arrested. There was only white bread and bologna in the bag. She needed something like juice or fruit because she is diabetic!! We believe that a male inmate named Willie McFarlane died of diabetic shock because of lack of medical care. The Sheriff, Ashley Paulk, told me that he "wanted to die" and refused to take his medicine. When diabetics are in diabetic shock, they cannot make decisions!! When I was finally allowed my one free phonecall, the phone still didn't work. It took 20 minutes of the guards messing with it for me to finally make a phonecall. I was at the nurse's station when I was brought in, giving my medical history, and the first nurse I saw allowed me to have two Tylenol. The second nurse I saw (when I looked in on her as I was making my free phonecall, 16-17 hours after I was arrested) told me "there isn't any".

7. I was given flip-flops to wear but no socks. I was told by inmates, that I could purchase socks and sneakers, but it would be a week before they arrived. No guard told me anything except my Miranda rights and made me sign a paper saying that I had been told my rights. However, being told that you can make a phone call is not the law. Being able to MAKE the phone call is the law! There were no working phones!! Inmates told me pregnant women receive no medical supervision such as blood pressure screenings. No accommodations are made for morning sickness or any of the host of other things that go along with being pregnant. Many women were incarcerated for over 6 months waiting for trial. One woman had been there nearly a year waiting for trial. I was told that sometimes women are arraigned, have bond set, but then the guards take them back to their cells and forget about them until the next day. I was told that women go to the exercise yard once a week for an hour. I was told that the last time they went a male inmate on the second floor masturbated and shot the semen into the yard on the women. When I was in the holding cell waiting to be arraigned, our cell was situated at right angles to the men's holding cell so that they could see in and leer and make comments. We would form a shield with our bodies so that one of us could use the toilet.

8. We were in there for almost 4 hours. Some women were in there longer than that. One woman told me her court appointed lawyer had met with her twice in 9 months and would not accept collect calls and she had no money to buy a phonecard to make calls to him. The only protein sources on the commissary list were peanut butter and tuna. One in six American women has unsafe mercury levels (causes brain damage, especially in fetuses) and tuna is the primary source. You can see the information under the FDA warnings on the internet. I was told that it would be 7 days before anyone could visit me. I was told that the phones in the visitation area do not work and people have to write messages on paper and hold it up to the window in order to communicate. Obviously, people who cannot read and write cannot communicate with family!!

9. I was not allowed to have my reading glasses, but other women were. Even if the guard had not blacked out my case number to make phone-calls, I couldn't read it without my glasses. But it wouldn't have mattered, because the phones didn't work!! The walls were filthy, with scum, mold, and unknown substances "flowing" down them. The women told me they would clean them but the only cleaning supplies they were given were body soap and a mop and bucket to clean the floors. The cells we were in had previously been used for male prisoners. There was urine and semen leaching out of the floor around the toilet. The women told me that when they were first put in there, they demanded some Comet and sprinkled that around the toilet to "cut the smell". The showers were in the same state of unsanitary conditions. It was raining outside and sewer smells were coming up out of the drains in the showers.

10. Six years ago, I requested a tour of the Jail from Sheriff Ashley Paulk. I was shown only the common corridors and the arraignment holding cells, which are pristine in comparison to the living quarters of the inmates. The inmates told me that anytime a group comes to tour the jail, they are locked into the cells so they can't communicate with them (for instance, our local Grand Jury tours the Jail once a year). Although I was not strip-searched, I was told that when guards want to "get back" at prisoners, they strip-search the entire cell block, sometimes once a day for days on end. None of the guards had their names visible on their uniforms. The inmates told me, and I saw them putting complaint forms in a special box in our common area but they told me nothing ever happens to satisfy the complaint.

11. I was told by a cell mate that she had been stripped naked and thrown into “the hole” by four guards, where she was kept in total darkness and total isolation, for 4 days. She had no clothes, no bed, no blanket. I was told that when guards brutalize prisoners, that the prisoners are isolated in “the hole” until their bruises and cuts heal so that family members won’t see the evidence of the beating. There were fifteen of us and we are all educated, literate citizens with no prior records.

12. I think we would make an ideal group to go forward with a lawsuit to rectify some of these conditions and I pray you will help us.”

Best wishes,
Leigh Touchton
ACLU member

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