An Arlington County grand jury yesterday voted to investigate alleged incidents of brutality and insufficient medical treatment of women inmates in the Arlington County Jail.
The jurors declared themselves a special grand jury with subpoena powers to carry out the probe.
According to sources, the special grand jury also will investigate broader complaints about conditions at the jail, including allegations of unfair treatment of the 10 women prisoners in the jail, problems of access to lawyers and legal materials, the opening and reading of legal mail by deputies, improper monitoring of legal phone clls and lack of educational programs for women inmates.
Last week the grand jury heard testimony from Linda Lousie Coleman, a 30-year-old inmate at the jail, who complained she was kicked, hit and thrown against the wall of a cell by five deputies on March 25, sources said.
The alleged incident occured as Coleman was being returned to the jail after an emergency visit to Arlington County hospital, where she had been treated for an intestinal ailment.
Sheriff J. Elwood Clements, who spent two hours testifying before the grand jury yesterday, said later the jurors' decision to impanel a special investigation into Coleman's complaints and other incidents surprised him. Clements denied that any unusual show of force was used to subdue Coleman.
The sheriff said Coleman had refused to enter a special holding cell for continued medical observation upon her return from the hospital.
Coleman later was confined to her cell for 15 days, Clements said.
According to Janice MacDonald, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing Coleman and several other women at the 153-person jail, Coleman had to wait five days before seeing a doctor. Coleman now wears a neck brace as a result of the incident, sources said.
Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney William Burroughs said yesterday the grand jury already has requested jail records "which go beyond the scope of the Coleman incident." Clements said the jury requested daily logs and reports "for several months prior to the incident."