Southern Center for Human Rights sends second warning letter to the state prison over human rights violations taking place in the facility, which has failed to respond
ALTO, GA. — On Mon., July 19, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) sent a second warning letter to Lee Arrendale State Prison’s warden Murray Tatum that details numerous complaints of human rights violations taking place in the facility, along with a list of immediate actions to be taken to remedy the unconstitutional treatment. The Mainline reported on SCHR’s initial warning letter that was sent out this past April. According to SCHR Communications Director Hannah Riley, no response from Tatum or the facility has yet been received.
The Lee Arrendale State Prison, also referred to simply as “Arrendale State Prison,” is a state-run prison facility for adult and juvenile women. It was constructed in 1926, opened in 1951, and according to the official Georgia Department of Corrections website, has a capacity of 1,476.
Since sending the first letter to Tatum in April, SCHR says it has received additional reports from women who have been detained in the facility explaining various deplorable conditions in the facility. Women have shared with SCHR representatives that they are not given access to recreation for months at a time; that they experience retaliation for speaking with staff from SCHR about conditions; that the drinking water is contaminated, mold infestation is worsening, and that the prison is failing to comply with safe food handling practices. According to SCHR’s most recent press release, “the prison remains chronically understaffed, with 67% of positions left unfilled as of April 2021.”
SCHR’s report explains that mold infestation in the prison results in women having difficulty breathing, experiencing constant debilitating headaches, and suffering from skin rashes; that chronic understaffing results in poor medical care, unchecked violence, and insufficient meal portions; and that women at Arrendale live in “filthy cells” with defective plumbing and electricity, receiving limited access to cleaning and hygiene supplies. Food is reportedly both “inedible (at times labeled ‘not fit for human consumption’) and scarce.” SCHR explains that women in one dormitory reportedly contracted a bacterial infection from drinking it.
“Women held at Arrendale are surrounded by thickly caked black mold, fed food labeled ‘not fit for human consumption,’ offered contaminated water, held in solitary confinement, denied access to the courts, exposed to endemic violence, and denied adequate medical care,” explains SCHR Legal Fellow Jesse McGleughlin. “This heinous treatment falls well below our basic standards for human decency.”
The advocacy group’s press release also says the grievance process for those detained is “ineffective” while “attorney-client correspondence is illegally intercepted, leaving women without access to the courts.” Women who have come forward to SCHR to describe their living conditions in the facility in detail have also reported experiencing “immediate retaliation” in response to giving their testimony, including “being removed from work details, honor dorm placements, or being transferred out of the prison entirely.”
Women in the immediate postpartum period are reportedly subjected to particularly egregious conditions. Reports to SCHR explain that some women who have just given birth are sometimes “sent to Arrendale wearing clothing soaked with afterbirth fluid and blood … not given clean clothes for days on end.” Another report shares that one mother was “forced to remove her own vaginal stitches with a toenail clipper after developing an infection that was left untreated, despite her repeated and frantic requests for medical attention.” Moreover, SCHR shares one mother “was forced after developing an infection that was left untreated, despite her repeated and frantic requests for medical attention,” while another new mother “had to wait approximately three weeks to receive iron for her anemia, ibuprofen for severe cramping, and postnatal vitamins.” Another women was “denied contact with her baby’s caregiver for six weeks,” and “despite suffering from postpartum depression, she was denied mental health treatment for nearly two months.”
“The prison functionally discards those who are most vulnerable, leaving postpartum women in bloodied clothes without even the most basic postpartum care, and denying women’s requests for medical care for months at a time,” says Vanessa Carroll, an attorney with SCHR.
The full letter sent from SCHR to Warren Tatum at Lee Arrendale State Prison can be viewed here. We will continue to report on this case as it develops.