Former Hamblen Co. jail inmates file lawsuit against jail, county

HAMBLEN COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -A federal class action lawsuit has been filed against Hamblen County officials, claiming the Hamblen County jail discriminates against people who can’t afford to pay bail.

Four former women inmates brought the lawsuit to federal court in Feb. 2020, claiming they were in jail only because they were too poor to pay bail. The lawsuit calls the situation a civil rights violation, and says the defendants do not provide any process for incarcerated individuals to contest their jailing until days or weeks have passed.

The lawsuit names Hamblen Co. Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, Hamblen County General Sessions judge Doug Collins, Hamblen County circuit court clerk Teresa West and three judicial commissioners as defendants.

The lawsuit asks that inmates not be kept locked up because they don’t have money to pay bail. It also asks for the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees to be paid and such other relief as a court deems appropriate.