Hamilton County Attorney Argues Covid-19 Makes Jail ‘Cruel’ Punishment

Chattanooga, TN – Local attorney, Chad Wilson, is citing his client’s one year jail sentence as “cruel and unusual punishment” and asking for the judge to reconsider his sentence.

Wilson’s client was diagnosed with Covid-19 after being sentenced to a year in jail. That, along with an untreated chronic condition, have led Wilson to deem the punishment as cruel. He believes the virus could have a deadly impact on his client if he is left to finish out his sentence.

Wilson says negligence on behalf of the jail has caused Covid-19 to rapidly spread through inmates. He argues they have not followed CDC guidelines because they do not require staff members to wear masks, and have not provided masks or hand sanitizer to inmates.

Wilson also states the inmates are not able to social distance themselves and they do not have proper supplies to keep their spaces clean.

Defendants have been requesting cases to be reset because they are being asked to quarantine while in jail.

This includes the Hamilton County Jail as well as Silverdale Detention Center. Both have denied any failure on their part in terms of taking precautions against Covid-19.

Steve Owen, a spokesperson for the company that operates Silverdale, emailed out a statement that said, “All inmates at Silverdale are provided with masks. Any assertion otherwise is false.”

The email went on to say, “And like all CoreCivic facilities, Silverdale is adhering to the latest CDC recommendations for cleaning and disinfection, social distancing and the issuance and use of personal protective equipment.”

According to the Sheriff’s office, 36 inmates and 20 staff members at Silverdale have tested positive for Covid-19 since November 25.

Wilson’s client, Tommie Lyons, pleaded guilty to a few misdemeanours on October 28. These charges included theft, reckless endangerment, and evading arrest. He was then sentenced to serve just under a year at Silverdale Detention Center. The day of sentencing, Lyons tested positive for Covid-19.

Lyons also has medication that he is supposed to take every day for an ongoing condition. Wilson says that from November 11 to the 17, he only received four doses.

“Mr. Lyons retains his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The failure to provide Mr. Lyons with his medication as prescribed will result, as direct cause, in Mr. Lyon’s condition worsening and ultimately develop a more severe condition,” Wilson says.

Wilson has argued that this situation makes Lyons’ jail sentence cruel and unjust punishment.

Owen has argued that “Silverdale is equipped for and does provide a wide range of on-site health care services including the administration of prescribed medications.”

Judge Statom denied Wilson’s first motion because Lyons was sentenced after agreeing to a plea deal in order to face lesser charges.

On December 8, Wilson filed another appeal with Judge Don Poole.

Poole says if he finds these allegations true it will mean that protective measures in these jails “were and are insufficiently protective not only of inmates but of staff and the entire community to which inmates and staff return.”

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