“We Sleep and Breathe Mold." Instagram Photos from Inside DeKalb County Jail Reveal Foul Conditions at White Authoritarians' Debtors Prison for Poor Black People Held Pre-Trial

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From [HERE] and [IGD] It started with a photo on social media. During a video visitation last month at the DeKalb County Jail in Decatur, Georgia, people detained at the jail tried to show some of its conditions to their loved ones.

Malaya Abdullah-Tucker, who said her son is in the jail, took screenshots and posted them on Instagram.

Last month, photos and videos of inmates in the Dekalb County Jail, located outside of Atlanta, Georgia, were posted to the internet and went viral. The photos included messages written on the bottom of Styrofoam food trays, as Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross documented:

Inmates who sent photos pleading for help for inhumane conditions were abused and put in the hole as retaliation on April 11, according to the mothers of the two men. Their relatives had posted screenshots from an April 7 video visit on a jail device that the inmates are allowed to use. The posts began going viral on social media April 10 with the hashtags #JusticeForInmates and #DekalbCountyJail.

“Dekalb jail is mistreating us!!!”, “We sleep & breathe mold”, and “Please help we dying! Need food!!!!”. They included The hashtag #Justiceforinmates.

Inmates also produced the following message:

“Inmates in the DeKalb County Jail is actually dying and being subjected to unhealthy conditions; breathing and sleeping with mold, having skin break outs, being assaulted by correctional officers in areas of the jail where there are no cameras etc. STAND FOR THESE YOUNG MEN! they are caged away with no voice. No matter what they are incarcerated for, they do not deserve to live in such treacherous conditions! most of them are there awaiting trials or traffic tickets… They are innocent until PROVEN guilty. But judge ye not! Repost and share! Let our voices be heard for them to get attention of officials who can have this facility investigated and fix the conditions.”

Across the US, many people are unable to leave the county jail system simply because they cannot pay to bail themselves out and remain stuck inside the system, regardless of if they are innocent or not, or have even gone to trial. During the 2016 prison strike, It’s Going Down interviewed the partner of one inmate that has been stuck in Merced County Jail for years. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune wrote:

As of Feb. 13, the most recent data available, there were 5,736 inmates in Cook County Jail; 5,390 were pretrial, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office. Of that number, 48 percent either cannot afford their monetary bail or lack a residence for electronic monitoring…

Wisconsin Public Radio noted:

Such pretrial incarceration is common throughout the United States. About half a million U.S. residents are held in jail on any given day awaiting trial — a trend that has grown sharply since the 1980s, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, which researches and advocates against mass incarceration.

Some defendants spend longer in jail awaiting trial than their sentences ultimately call for. In Louisiana, the problem is so acute that some indigent defendants — who under the law are presumed innocent — can wait four years or more for their day in court.

Coupled with crumbling infrastructure, guards angry and stressed about increasingly volatile environments pushed beyond capacity, and a lack of any sort of accountability for abuse, county jails have increasingly become violent cesspools for the poor who cannot afford to bail out.

According to an Instagram account covering the situation inside, soon after the photos and video first appeared on social media, the men in the photos were quickly put in isolation. Then, guards raided their cells and attacked inmates associated with the photos. [MORE]