Speakers describe dismal conditions at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center during town hall

Dr. Ben Williams of the Cobb County branch of SCLC convenes town hall on conditions at the Cobb County Adult Detention CenterDr. Ben Williams of the Cobb County branch of SCLC convenes town hall on conditions at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Marietta, Ga. – Zion Baptist Church hosted a town meeting last Tuesday evening to discuss the conditions at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

Several groups, including the Cobb County branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia convened this meeting to bring attention to poor conditions that have been reported at the Cobb County Detention Center.

Dr. Ben Williams, president of Cobb SCLC, led the meeting and allowed a platform for family members of inmates and many former inmates to share their stories and express their personal concerns.

“Those at the Cobb County Detention Center have not even been convicted of a crime yet, and are still awaiting trial,” Williams said.

“I have never been to prison until I got to Cobb County,” said Dwight Futch, a former inmate. “I am a 58-year-old ex corrections officer from Brooklyn, New York and I have never been as scared as I was in Cobb County Detention Center.”

Futch said that he and many other inmates have had to wash their own jumpsuits in the sink and toilet bowl.

He said that the detention center doesn’t provide more than one jumpsuit and does not clean the one inmates have.

Futch also said that because of the almost 24 hour lockdown schedule that the ADC keeps inmates on, many people have learned how to jam their doors and escape when the correctional officers are away. He said that this is leading to far more danger and injury than what should be occurring at a detention center.

Mother of inmate at Cobb ADC tells attendees they should take immediate action (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Many other people from the community got up to publicly speak about the conditions at the detention center. Some shared their personal experiences, while others shared the experiences of their loved ones.

The charges by inmates included gasoline in the water supply, the lack of medical attention provided to the inmates, the month-long lockdowns that lasted 23 hours and 45 minutes a day, failing to permit visitation with family, delaying access to mail, preventing personal phone calls with loved ones, banning the delivery of the newspaper, the lack of edible food or available commissary, and the lack of basic needs such as a blanket and clean clothing.

“My son has a peanut allergy and has not been able to eat for days,” said Andrea Stuart, a mother of an inmate at Cobb County. “He has lost about 30 pounds and calls me every day about how hungry he is.”

Susan McCoy, who is a former inmate, said she is suffering from many psychological issues as a result of her time at Cobb County Detention Center. She said she now suffers from PTSD and paranoia, and feels like she has experienced a war that she never fought in.

Attorney Cynthia Yeager (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Cynthia Yeager, a criminal defense attorney, said that she receives the same complaints from almost all her clients and their family members. Yeager said she is told that there is fecal matter smeared on the walls and ceiling of the facility, which have not been cleaned up for months.

“You know it’s come to a point of outrage when people are waiving their constitutional rights and saying ‘send me to prison, because I would rather go to prison than stay in the Cobb County Detention Center’,” said Yeager.

Yeager urged people to call District Attorney Joyette Holmes and ask for a grand jury investigation of conditions in the ADC. She said that Holmes is the one person in the community that can ask the grand jury to investigate.

Since 2019, seven people have died while in the custody of the detention center.

The ACLU passed around a petition that called for an independent audit on the conditions of the detention center. In December, Neil Warren said that the claims about the poor conditions were false.

Rich Pellegrino, the Cobb SCLC Field Director, said that we are at the second stage right now with petitions and verbally requesting change. Pellegrino said that if change does not come as a result ot this, the third step will be a more active approach. He said that could include a march and rally in downtown Marietta.

A list of elected officials was handed out at the event, and several speakers urged the town hall participants to contact those officials, to demand change at the detention center, and to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

Mackenzie Botz is currently a junior studying Public Relations at Kennesaw State University. She is a freelance writer who lives in Marietta with her fiancé, son and dog. In her spare time she loves to spend time her family, explore the outdoors and volunteer with local animal rescues.