The way Abreham Zemedagegehu tells it, the six weeks he spent in the Arlington County, Va., jail nearly amounted to torture.
A deaf Ethiopian immigrant with limited ability to speak or write English, Zemedagegehu says he missed two or three meals a week because he could not hear the announcement that it was time to eat. He says he went his entire stay without medication for back pain, struggled to communicate with jailers and was unable to make phone calls to friends outside.
In one particularly harrowing encounter, Zemedagegehu alleges, a jail staffer forced a needle into his arm — a tuberculosis test, he would later learn — after he refused to sign a medical consent form that he could not read.
“I felt stuck. I was stuck,” Zemedagegehu said, communicating in sign language through an interpreter. “There was no one to talk to me.”