Scabies is a infestation of the skin from the human itch mite (CDC)
Michael Schwab / USA TODAY Network – Tennessee

NASHVILLE — The female inmates of Nashville’s privately operated jail could scratch the rashes spreading across their bodies.

But officers warned inmates they’d be put in solitary confinement if they talked about what caused the rashes they’d had for weeks or months, alleges a new federal lawsuit filed Friday. 

“(CoreCivic officers) began threatening Plaintiff and other inmates that if they mentioned the word ‘scabies,’ complained about it, or filed a grievance, they would be placed in solitary confinement,” the lawsuit states. 

“Inmates attempted to inform their family members about the scabies infestation over the phone and asked their families to research scabies on their behalf. Because (CoreCivic) monitors all phone calls, those inmates immediately had their phone privileges revoked, in retaliation for attempting to bring light to the epidemic.”

Allegations of threats, retaliation and denying medical treatment pepper the 21-page lawsuit, which seeks class action status for all female inmates who have suffered or will suffer from a scabies outbreak that, after weeks of festering in one portion of the jail, earlier this month led to treatment for all inmates at the 1,300-bed facility and many local courthouse workers.

The outbreak occurred at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility, operated by CoreCivic, a Nashville-based private prison company previously known as Corrections Corporation of America or CCA. 

As word spread of the outbreak, allegations CoreCivic denied treatment or downplayed the severity of the disease prompted questions from judges as well as local and state lawmakers.