Former inmate sues Cocke County over jail conditions, says he was left for 12 hours after being beaten

After years of concerns centered on the conditions in the Cocke County Jail, the county and several officials are facing a lawsuit from a former inmate.

The suit, filed on behalf of Steven J. Laws, alleges that Laws, who was jailed in March of 2022 on misdemeanor drug charges, was beaten by fellow inmates on his first day then left unchecked in his cell for 12 hours before being denied medical service by jail officials.

Laws’ main complaints about his experience center on an ongoing issue at the jail: not enough corrections officers in charge of too many inmates.

The Cocke County Jail has faced problems for years, losing its Tennessee Correctional Institute certification in 2017 due to poor living conditions for inmates, overcrowding and understaffing. During a 2017 visit, then-Chief Deputy Derrick Woods showed WVLT News rotting ceilings, holes in the floor and leaks.

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