LITTLE ROCK — Nearly two dozen inmates are accusing a central Arkansas jail of putting their safety at risk by keeping them locked in their cells because of a staffing shortage.


The 23 inmates filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Pulaski County jail, Sheriff Doc Holladay and five jail officials and employees. The inmates want the case designated as a class-action lawsuit so they can jointly pursue claims of civil rights violations.


“We are in general population but treated as if we are in (administrative segregation),” the lawsuit stated.


The inmates involved are all housed in the jail’s R unit, which holds up to 80 inmates and connects to another unit with about the same number of inmates.


“Due to lack of staff, the door that connects the units … is left open,” the lawsuit stated. “This forces the deputy working the units to watch both units.”


The practice of having one deputy oversee about 150 inmates creates the potential for violent or sexual acts to go unnoticed, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges the practice violates federal law and county policy.


The defendants allege that they’re forced to remain in their jail cells for hours at a time while inmates in other general-population units can leave their cells to make phone calls, watch television, exercise and shower.


“This lock-down prevents inmates from contacting their lawyers, bondsman and family,” the lawsuit stated. “Inmates have to give up cell clean-up in order to come out of their cells. Also, there is only one security camera in the unit, which is only above the deputy station. Inmates’ safety is at risk due to blind spots in the unit.”


Neither the sheriff’s office spokesman nor the chief of detention could be reached for comment.