Media Statement From JN, Resident of the South Fulton Jail
The below is attributable to JN, a plaintiff in Georgia Advocacy Office, et al. v. Labat, et al., a lawsuit on behalf of a class of women with serious mental illness held in torturous conditions of solitary confinement for over 23 hours a day at the South Fulton Jail in Union City, Georgia.
“I feel really good about the settlement and am happy that I helped make a difference for people like me. In particular, the group therapy and other activities that we can now participate in give us a light in what can be a very dark place. The group activities include coloring, yoga, music, and dancing. A lot of people like these programs.
Before this lawsuit, there was just nothing to do. We hardly ever left our cells, and officers would pick and choose who they let out. Most people got an hour or less per day out of their cells, and some people did not get to come out at all. When we came out, there was nothing to do, and we almost never got to go outdoors for fresh air. On top of that, the staff hardly ever cleaned or gave us clean clothes.
When I was in the jail a few years ago, when the jail was dirty and there was nothing to do, the living conditions hurt my mental health. I got so tired of being locked in a concrete room all day. It felt like being a bird in a cage that can’t fly anymore. It felt like nobody cared about me. I became very depressed. I smelled really bad because I could rarely shower or get clean clothes. I felt ashamed. People would get angry and beat on the doors just to try to get a shower.
Things are much better now. The only thing that we did not get in the settlement that I wanted is for the jail to issue us sweaters to wear year-round. Even in warmer months, the temperature in the areas of the jail where people live is almost always uncomfortably cold. If we just had sweaters to wear, the cold would not be so bad. I hope that the people who run the jail will decide to give us sweaters, even though the settlement does not require them.
Even though we did not get everything we wanted in the settlement, it is still a major improvement. I hope that the settlement will ensure that women are treated humanely now and in the future.”