ACLU Says Inmates in Georgia Jail Deprived Of Water For Days, Call For Investigation

A Georgia jail is accused of depriving inmates of water to drink and for showers for days, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to demand an investigation into the allegations.

According to the ACLU, the Cobb County Adult Detention Center turned the water off for days in one of the jail's residential areas after the facility's water filters were improperly cleaned with gasoline.

In a statement, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren confirmed that the jail had performed maintenance work to replace a valve in the building's water system on Friday, January 17.

"On Saturday an inmate reported to deputies that the water in a single housing area had a slight odor," the release said.

After being notified, facility staff determined that "some lubrication fluid used to replace the valve had not been completely wiped down" in the cell block, the statement continued. Warren's statement added that the 25 inmates housed in that cell block were relocated while the system was cleaned and that analysis of the water in that area of the jail with be conducted on Tuesday.

However, the ACLU says that the inmates were not immediately moved to another facility and that it took repeated phone calls from their family members to convince the sheriff's office to do so. The allegations also state that while the men remained in the cell block with contaminated pipes that there was no access to running water for drinking or bathing.

"In addition to a full investigation into the water contamination at the Cobb County Detention Center, we demand the Sheriff's Office conduct appropriate comprehensive medical exams of each person who may have been affected to determine what health impact may have occurred from consuming the toxins in the water," ACLU of Georgia political director Christopher Bruce said in a press release.

However, Warren disputed the ACLU's accusations in his own statement, saying, "Once again the ACLU is spinning a narrative of crisis and conflict when in fact a minor plumbing issue was repaired, inmates were moved as a precaution and additional validation of water quality is being sought."

"Our staff does a tremendous job every day and having the ACLU trying to cause unwarranted alarm within our community and inmates does more harm than good," Warren continued.

The Cobb County Adult Detention Center has been under scrutiny from activist groups since 2019, when seven inmate deaths were reported at the jail.

One of the deceased, Bradley Emory, was reported to have committed suicide the day before he was to be bonded out of prison.

"I need the truth out of Cobb County jail, they need to quit hiding under the veil of open investigation," said James Emory, Bradley Emory's brother, to WAGA-TV, during an October protest over the jail's conditions.

The ACLU subsequently accused the jail in November of keeping inmates on lockdown for months in "solitary confinement-like conditions" and denying them access to basic hygiene products, medical care, visitation and phone call rights.

The Georgia branch of the ACLU sent an open records request on November 19 to the prison in pursuit of more information on the situation. They also want every 2019 inmate death to be accounted for and a plan to be implemented which will ensure inmate health and safety, as well as an addition of a citizen review board, according to WAGA.

Prison, Handcuffs
The ACLU has again accused a Georgia prison of mistreating inmates when a mistake made during a shower filter cleaning required an evacuation of a cell block Friday. Rawf8/Getty

"As noted by the U.S. Supreme Court, 'prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the Constitution.' The Cobb County Sheriff's Office must provide meaningful transparency and rectify any unconstitutional or unlawful conditions in this situation," ACLU of Georgia staff attorney Kosha Tucker said in the November press release.