Former Inmate Sues County
A former Cocke County jail inmate is suing the county over what he says were injuries suffered at the hands of fellow inmates and the lack of medical care at the jail for those injuries. In the suit filed Monday in US District Court in Greeneville, Steven J. Laws says that he was arrested a year ago in March of 2022 on a misdemeanor drug charge. Laws alleges that he was beaten by fellow inmates during his first day in the jail. In the suit, Laws says he suffered serious head injuries, including a concussion. He also had numerous facial injuries which included multiple jaw fractures that later required emergency surgery. Laws claims he laid on the floor for twelve hours before any corrections officers rendered any aid. He claims the officers cleaned up his wounds and called the nurse who told them she would see him in the morning and to give him an ice pack and Tylenol. He was later bailed out by his mother who took him to the ER and found that his jaw was broken. A dentist told them to go to the UT Medical Center in Knoxville where Laws says he underwent emergency surgery for the broken jaw and impacted teeth. The bill for his surgery was $34,000.
His lawsuit is seeking $1.5 million and lists Cocke County as a defendant as well as former sheriff Armando Fontes individually and numerous county jail personnel individually. In the suit, Laws attorneys say that official state data shows that for years, the Cocke County Jail has been the second most crowded jail in Tennessee. It is understaffed, and lacks sufficient manpower to supervise inmates.
The Cocke County jail has been an issue for some time, losing its Tennessee Correctional Institute Certification back in 2017. Building a new jail has been something the sheriff’s office has been seeking for years, but the CLB has never agreed on a method to which they would use to pay for it. Steven J. Laws has requested a jury trial for his lawsuit.