City of Atlanta proposes temporary lease of its jail space to Fulton County to prevent overcrowding

·3 min read

Changes could be on the way to help alleviate severe overcrowding at the Fulton County Jail.

On Monday, the city council heard a proposal that would move hundreds of inmates from the county to the mostly-unused Atlanta City Detention Center.

Channel 2′s Kristen Holloway spoke with some activists in front of the Mayor’s office and asked why they were pushing back on this plan.

“I remain committed to fully repurposing the Atlanta City Detention Center facility for non-incarceration purposes,” Dickens said in a statement. “But we are also confronted by a real and immediate crisis of overcrowding at the Fulton County Jail. Many of these detainees are Atlanta residents, and our conscience calls us to act.”

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In late June, three council members introduced a resolution in support of closing the detention center and turning it into a facility that provides mental health support, drug and alcohol treatment and transitional housing, named after the late Rep. John Lewis.

On Monday, activists explained why they would prefer this option.

“We are here because we are demanding an audience with the mayor. We want to make good on his promise. He was the original sponsor of the legislation to close the Atlanta City Detention Center back in 2019 under Mayor Bottoms and he committed to finishing the job, and so we’re here to figure out how we can work together to honor the congressman and give people the type of community center they deserve in the city of Atlanta,” Devin Barrington-Ward said.

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat described overcrowding at the jail as a crisis that has left detainees having to sleep on the ground, so having them housed here at the detention center would help.

While his department spends millions of taxpayer dollars and searches the state for more room to house inmates, the city of Atlanta spends about $16 million to keep open a 1,300-bed facility that sits nearly empty.

The detention center is left unused in part because of a 2018 city ordinance that eliminated cash bonds, which kept many low-level offenders behind bars.

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Labat has been trying to lease space at the city’s detention center since the first week he took office in 2021.

The tension between the city and county over the jail heightened last year, during the end of former-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ term. She pushed for the closure of the city’s detention center after a task force recommended it be demolished and replaced with a community center.

She was open to leasing some space to the county and offering a re-entry program, but those negotiations fell through.

While that measure is on hold in a City Council committee, hundreds of inmates sleep on the floor of Fulton’s Rice Street Jail every night.

Should this measure come to fruition, the county would pay $50 per day for each person staying at the facility, and the city is entitled to 65% of the phone and commissary fees generated.

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