State lawmakers to investigate Fulton County Jail

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(The Center Square) — A group of Georgia lawmakers will soon start to investigate the Fulton County Jail following a string of deaths at the facility.

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, has appointed a subcommittee to investigate “root causes” and possible solutions. The subcommittee will hold its first meeting in November.

“We’re not coming to this from an adversarial standpoint; we’re coming at it [as a] body that wants to help have solutions to this issue and this problem that is continuing to grow right now,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones said during a press conference.

“…We do want to be the safest place — not just the best place to do business, but we want to be the safest place to do business,” Jones, a Republican, added. “And in order to do that, your capital city has got to be that, and every person deserves due process and … not have the unfortunate situations that we’ve had in the last year with the untimely deaths of individuals who were waiting to be arraigned in most cases.”

A spokesperson for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the committee. However, in a statement last month, Fulton County Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat said that since taking office in January 2021, he has been open about the need for a new jail that uses smart technology and what he said are cost-saving measures to reduce overcrowding and enhance security while saving lives.

“The recent outbreak of violence at the Fulton County Jail is of grave concern but unfortunately is not surprising considering the long-standing, dangerous overcrowding and the crumbling walls of the facility that are literally being crafted into makeshift weapons that inmates use to attack each other and staff,” Labat said. “We have had an unfortunate series of deaths this year that range from natural causes, to pre-existing health conditions, to homicide.

“To mitigate the violence and overcrowding, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is in constant negotiations with other detention facilities, including facilities out of state, to outsource inmates,” Labat added. “In addition, we have been coordinating with other agencies to secure additional resources to assist with mass shakedowns and increase the cadence of these shakedowns in order to seize contraband.”

A state-based investigation should benefit taxpayers, as they are paying more but “receiving less than what they bargained for,” Oakland, California, civil rights attorney Adanté Pointer said.

“Case in point, taxpayers are financing the jail’s operations with the goal of safely housing people until they get their day in court,” Pointer of Lawyers for the People LLC told The Center Square via email.

“Instead, taxpayers are faced with an overcrowded and unnecessarily dangerous, deadly jail which leads to even more taxpayer dollars going to cover lawsuits and to rectify jail conditions that should not be allowed to exist — and persist — in the first place,” Pointer added. “Taxpayer money is best spent preventing the jail’s inhumane conditions from existing in the first place, rather than covering the tab for an inept bureaucracy.”

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