Sheriff sued for barring ACLU of Ala. from Fayette County jail - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Sheriff sued for barring ACLU of Ala. from Fayette County jail

FAYETTE COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed a lawsuit Wednesday, March 7 against Fayette County Sheriff Rodney Ingle after they say they were repeatedly denied the right to meet with inmates inside Fayette County Jail.

The ACLU says their lawyers were "unconstitutionally deprived of their right to consult with inmates" after hearing reports of conditions that could violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Complaints about poor medical care, malnutrition, use of excessive force, inadequate monitoring of inmates with mental health issues and indifference to medical conditions, including pregnancy, have reached the ears of the ACLU via letters from inmates inside Fayette County Jail and messages from their family members who are allowed to visit, according to Jared Shepherd, ACLU of Alabama Law Fellow.

He says a few letters from inmates reached the ACLU last summer, but direct contact between inmates and ACLU lawyers seems to have been cut down in recent months.

"We're under the impression that some of the complaints are not reaching us. We've heard this from family members who have spoken to inmates who say they've repeatedly tried to contact us, but we've never received anything," Shepherd said. "We know that things do not sound good. We just want to get in there and meet with [the inmates]."

Shepherd said the sheriff's office told the ACLU they were not allowed inside the jail because only criminal defense attorneys were allowed, and the inmates would have to see "any other types of lawyers" on their own time.

"What 'their own time' means when they're in the jail 24/7 is what? Who knows?" Shepherd questioned.

Twice, the ACLU has attempted to schedule an interview with Ingle to clarify his attorney-client policy, but the sheriff never responded to those messages, the most recent one sent on Jan.18, Shepherd said.

"By denying the ACLU of Alabama and its staff the right to speak with prisoners in his facility, Sheriff Ingle acts in blatant violation of the Constitution," said Shepherd in a press release issued March 7.

The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in the Jasper division. Shepherd said Ingles' lawyers should have been notified with a courtesy copy of the lawsuit, ACLU of Alabama v. Ingle, which can be viewed online at:  http://www.aclualabama.org/News/PressReleases/Highlights/2011-03-09PlaintiffsComplaintsigned.pdf

At the time of the publishing of this article, Sheriff Ingle had not responded to FOX6 requests for a response.

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