Inmates talk about conditions at Fayette Co. jail

Two of the 28 inmates released early from Fayette County Jail talked to Action News 5 reporter Kontji Anthony.

They told tales of overcrowding and substandard conditions behind bars. But the sheriff has a different story to tell. They said the judge did what he had to do. But, the sheriff disagrees.

It's a controversy simmering in Fayette County judicial circles after 28 inmates were released early because Judge Mike Whitaker said a health hazard was on the horizon.

"I wouldn't wish that on a dog. The conditions were very unsanitized," explained one of the inmates.

A day after a woman said she was assaulted by one of the released inmates, two people who say they shared a cell with Willie Smith came forward to support Judge Whitaker's action.

They didn't want to show their faces because they both have pending cases. For the sake of this story we'll call them Joe and John.

"At one time, we were in a cell fit for six inmates, six bunks. There was actually 20 people in there. People all on the floors," said John.

The two men claim they'd been in jail two weeks for not having registration in their cars when an officer stopped them.

Judge Whitaker said they were released because a TB patient was on the way and the cells were packed to the hilt.

But, Sheriff Bobby Riles said there were only 60 people there at the time. The jail maxes-out at 108.

"I haven't had any complaints," said Riles.

Riles said the jail has not be full since he took office last September, "we have met all the certifications through the Fire Marshall, through the state. We don't have any problems that I know of," Riles added.

District Attorney Mike Dunavant is trying to determine if Judge Whitaker's early release was a criminal act.

Stay with Action News 5 and WMCTV.com for updates on this story.

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