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Ltr. to Sheriff re Inadequate Nutrition at Gordon County GA Jail SHCR 2014

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0 404.688.1202
0 404.688.9440

October 28, 2014


83 Poplar Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30303

Sheriff Mitch Ralston
Gordon County Sheriff's Office
2700 U.S. Highway 41 North
Calhoun, GA 30701
Imalston@ gordoncounty .org

Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

Failure to Provide Adequate Nutrition to People in the
Gordon County Jail

Chair Emeritus

Dear Sheriff Ralston:

Maureen F. Del Duca

We have received numerous credible complaints from people who state that they
are being deprived of an adequate amount of food while detained in the Gordon
County Jail. People report that they are fed twice per day in such meager portions
that they experience constant hunger, weakness, and discomfort. While our office
receives many complaints about food served in prisons and jails across the South,
the reports we have received from the Gordon County Jail stand out as abnormal
and worthy of prompt attention.

Chair, Board of Directors
Stephen B. Bright

President and Senior Counsel
Sara J. Totonchl

Executive Director

Under Georgia law, the Gordon County Jail must provide inmates with at least
two "substantial and wholesome meals" each day. O.C.G.A. § 42-4-32. The state
and federal constitutions also require that jailors provide adequate amounts of
food to people in their custody. See, e.g., Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32
(1993). Detainees report that the Gordon County Jail does not provide substantial
and wholesome meals. They consistently describe very small portions at
breakfast and dinner, which are the only two meals that they can count on for
sustenance. The meals are served 10 to 14 hours apart and detainees report
remaining hungry after eating.
Numerous Gordon County Jail inmates have told us that they are so hungry they
eat toothpaste and toilet paper. Most reported losing a significant amount of
weight. They also report chronic headaches, weakness, irritability, and difficulty
sleeping because they are so hungry. One man had only two bowel movements
during 19 days in the Jail. Some people describe trying to combat their hunger by
licking symp packets (saved from the breakfast meal) throughout the day. Others
try to combat their hunger by drinking excessive amounts of water, which they
call "water sandwiches."
We understand that some men and women receive a third meal as members of
work details, while others can afford to supplement their diets by purchasing food
from the co111111issary. But most indigent people without "trustee" status rely on
the Jail for their nutritional needs. They have no other way to obtain food.

Ltr. to Sheriff Ralston
October 28, 2014
Page 2 of2
The Jail's failure to provide adequate nutrition is particularly injurious to indigent people who
have medical conditions like diabetes. We spoke to one 54-year-old man who appears gaunt and
emaciated. He states:

He feels hungry all the time;
He regularly eats toothpaste and toilet paper to try to "feel full";
He requested a diabetic meal, but has never received one;
He goes to sleep each night with a pounding headache due to hunger;
He tries to sleep all day to conserve energy and avoid thinking about food;
He has repeatedly asked to become an inmate tmstee so that he may obtain a sack lunch,
but his requests have been denied.

This man and others state that they have made numerous complaints both to officers and via the
Jail's computerized kiosk, but their requests have been ignored.
We are aware of the County's contract with Trinity Services Group for food services. We are
also aware of Trinity's written assurances regarding the quantities and caloric content of food it
serves. Numerous, consistent reports from detainees, however, indicate that Trinity does not
actually serve Gordon County Jail detainees food quantities required under its contract and
claimed in its menus and other printed materials.
Our preliminary investigation indicates that the Gordon County Jail has reduced food portions so
drastically that it is out of compliance with state and federal law. 1 We ask that you review the
Jail's feeding practices and Trinity's compliance with its contract to ensure that inmates receive
substantial and wholesome meals, as required by law.
We would welcome a meeting with you and your attorney to resolve this matter without
litigation. Thank you for your attention.


Sarah Geraghty


James F. Ledbetter, County Attorney
Christopher G. Paul, Chief Circuit Defender
Board of County Commissioners

See Prude v. Clark, 675 F.3d 732,734 (7th Cir. 2012) (finding that "[d]eliberate withholding of nutritious food"
coupled with "substantial weight loss" or other severe hardship would violate the United States Constitution). Civil
Contempt Order, Maynor v. Sheriff Greg Bartlett, No. 5:01-cv-851 (N.D. Ala. Jan. 7, 2009) (holding the Sheriff of
Morgan County, Alabama, in civil contempt for "consistently failing to provide a nutritionally adequate diet" to jail
inmates); Graves v. A1paio, No. CV-77-0479, 2008 WL4699770, at *46 (D. Ariz. Oct. 22, 2008) (finding violation
of pretrial detainees' constitutional right to adequate nutrition).