As of Tuesday, the people of Flint, Mich., have gone 1,524 days without a clean and stable water system. In the four years since the water crisis began, there is a segment of the population that has been almost completely overlooked in all the talks about bottled water, filters and the effects of lead poisoning: the people housed in the city’s jail at the height of the crisis.
The Associated Press reports that former inmates of the Flint jail have filed a lawsuit alleging that Genesee County, Mich., officials violated their rights during the water crisis by withholding clean water, rationing bottled water and at times forcing inmates to buy clean water. The suit also alleges that officials rejected deliveries of water made by relatives.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday on behalf of more than 90 former prisoners. According to the Detroit Free Press, it alleges that the inmates were forced to drink tap water even after officials knew that the water was contaminated with lead.
The suit names Genesee County, county Sheriff Robert Pickell and Capt. Jason Gould—who is identified as the jail administrator at the time of the water contamination—as defendants in the case and alleges that the inmates “were completely at the mercy” of the sheriff and jail officials, unable to install filters on jail water taps or drink bottled water, and unable to “travel to an area and/or municipality which had uncontaminated water.”