published Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Inmates from round up criticize Bradley County Jail conditions

The Bradley County Jail is in Cleveland, Tenn.
The Bradley County Jail is in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Who's housed where?

Bradley County:

Joe Jenkins

Guy L. Wilkerson

Rodney Harris II

Frank White

Valentino Harris

Reginald D. Oakley

Leontia Blackmon

LaJeromeny Brown

Kenneth Hopkins

Adrian Washington

Jerry Wayne Alexander Jr.

Derrick L. Smith

Tramale Johnson

Juanzell Jenkins

Hamilton County:

Robert S. North

Jumoke Johnson Jr.

Shannon D. Mitchell

Torrey Gilmore

Kentarius Nealy

Stephone L. Reed

Silverdale:

Rahmon Christian

As of press time, it was unknown where the following men are housed:

Gerald Toney

Dejuan Cooper

Juane Joseph

Idriss Barr

Milo E. Geiger

Johnny Caldwell Jr.

Garry Brown

Robert Siler

Thaddius L. Humphrey

Donte Taylor

Tommie Ryals

Nearly half of the men charged with cocaine or weapons offenses from a federal roundup in November have penned a letter from the Bradley County Jail with a message to the community.

"Due to the fact that the individuals are innocent until proven guilty and with the understanding of being properly detained, the individuals housed in the Bradley County Jail feel its only fair for the Chattanooga residents and all concerned parties know the difference and have the knowledge of the conditions they are being housed under," the letter dated Dec. 1 states.

At a news conference, officials said the 32-man roundup was evidence of law enforcement's efforts to clean up the streets by targeting cocaine and weapons crimes.

Juanzell Jenkins, 37, who faces a federal charge for conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine or 5 kg or more of powder cocaine, has four children. He tries to make sense of what has happened. He's at a loss.

"I feel bad myself. I feel like I've let them down," he said in a jailhouse interview last week. "I've done some things, but I'm not going around shooting people or anything like that."

In the letter to the Times Free Press, the inmates listed four complaints:

• Lack of access to the law library or any materials from it;

• Inmates being placed in isolation after complaining about medical issues;

• Waiting nearly a month to be presented with any evidence from authorities in regard to their charges;

• Having paperwork from attorneys confiscated by jailers.

Maj. Jon Collins with the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, who oversees courts and corrections, said all inmates have access to law library materials. The jail is working to provide inmates access to legal cases through kiosks in the pod. In the meantime, they are given hard copies upon request, he said. The county attorney was contacted last week to ensure inmates were given adequate access, he said.

Many inmates were placed in isolation recently when a gastric illness swept through the jail and sickened 31 people. The Tennessee Corrections Institute, the state Department of Health and Center for Disease Control were all called in to investigate. Some inmates were placed in cells where toilets did not function so health staff members could collect stool samples, Collins said. He was unaware of anyone being punished for asking for medical care.

Correspondence from the men's attorneys should not be confiscated, he said.

"I can't think of any reason why it would be taken," said Collins, unless inmates did something with the paperwork that violated jail rules.

Since the letter, many of the inmates have received information about the evidence in their cases. According to federal court records, the evidence consists of a case file from the Drug Enforcement Administration and eight CDs. The case was built on a series of wiretaps dating back to 2009. Some of the cases are set to go to trial in February.

The vast majority of the men have attorneys appointed by the court, records show.

"My attorney -- he's not interested in trying to find me not guilty," Jenkins said. "He wants me to cooperate. He acts like it's a game. It's my life. ... They're wanting us to turn against each other."

Jenkins, who said he has a blood disorder that requires him to take blood thinners, said he's not being given the correct medication to treat his condition.

However, Gwen Beavers, director of corrections at the Bradley County Jail, said Jenkins is incorrect.

"In reference to Mr. Jenkins, all inmates have access to the inmate kiosk, which is utilized to submit medical requests. The first, and only request submitted by Mr. Jenkins was this [Friday] morning at 6:45 am, and that request has been forwarded to medical staff," she said.

Another inmate wrote a letter to the Times Free Press complaining of not having hot drinking water because there was no access to microwaves. Inmates were using water from the hot rinse cycle in a washing machine to get hot water, he said.

Collins said there were a couple of inmate housing units where microwaves were broken. They were replaced a couple of days ago, he said. He was unaware of the inmates drinking water from washers.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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