Real News podcast: Attorney offers to pay inmate’s filing fee

Gene Mitchell and his fellow criminal defense attorneys have been in conversations with Escambia County over the conditions at the county jail. Last week, six prisoners have filed lawsuits in federal court alleging poor jail conditions at the jail and not being properly protected from COVID-19.

“These six non-represented inmates and former inmates have taken it in their own hands—blessed their hearts. And they’ve filed these lawsuits,” said Mitchell on 1370 WCOA. “I understand that they mailed in these handwritten lawsuits, and it appears the clerk in the federal courthouse filed them. But then, what I read is the hurdle now is that they haven’t paid their filing fees.”

Mitchell offered to pay the filing fee for the first one of the six to call him – 850-232-5278.

“I don’t know if they’re going to get anywhere or if they’re going to run into this bureaucratic stumbling block, but, my first feeling is slight embarrassment that no lawyer was able to do this,” he said.

The attorney shared what his clients have told him about jail conditions. He told about an 81-year-old man who “got in trouble for some little nothing thing last week” but wasn’t released on bond because the jail didn’t have the capacity to outfit him with a GPS on a weekend.

“We throw around words like, ‘that’s unconstitutional,’ a lot, but the fact is you have a right to reasonable and affordable conditions of release,” said Mitchell. “It doesn’t say reasonable and affordable conditions of release, unless the jail doesn’t hire a GPS person to work on the weekends.”

What are the conditions at the county jail?

Rats: “I would offer that the largest rat I’ve seen in my life was on the fourth floor of the jail while I was visiting with an inmate.”

Backup sewage: “A friend of mine in the jail told me that last night when I was visiting with him. So, it’s ongoing. It really appears like the jail is not achieving a very low bar when it comes to these things.”

Weak COVID precautions: Mitchell shared he had one client that contracted the virus will she was in the jail. Two prisoners have died of COVID, according to the attorney.